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Author of "Fortunes and Dreams"
'Signs, omens and predictions,
Are not all fictions,
And many facts does history cite
To prove that I am right"
GEORGE SULLY & COMPANY
Copyright, 191 8, by
GEORGE SULLY & COMPANY
All rights reserved
PRINTED IN U. S. A.
MAV 31 1918
I. Popular Superstitions .
II. Wedding-Superstitions .
Lucky Periods for Marriages
Bridal Cake — Bridesmaids .
Shoes and Weddings
Engagement and Wedding Rings
IV. Lucky and Unlucky Days and Seasons
New Year's Superstitions
April Fool's Day .
St. John's Eve .
Candlemas Day .
St. Valentine's Day
V. Signs of Good or Bad Luck
The Sign of the Cross
Knocking on Wood .
VI. Lucky and Unlucky Omens
Beliefs Concerning Children
Beliefs Concerning Eggs
Charms and Amulets
"* Horseshoe Lore .
- Pin Superstitions
The Influences of Mythical Beings
Signs Connected with the Body
Moles, Teeth, Warts, etc
Tingling and Itching
Stumbling and Falling
Cutting Nails and Hair
Squinting, Crippled, and Hunchback
Death and Corpses
The Evil Eye .
Household Beliefs .
^ Spilling of Salt .
The Mystery of Numbers
Lottery Numbers and Usages
Predictions of Wealth
Divination by Letters
Divination by Books .
Precious Stones .
Color Superstitions .
XL Plant Superstitions ....
XII. Bird (and Insect) Superstitions
Insect Omens ....
Animal Portents . . : .
■ Howling of Dogs > .
> Black Cats ....
Meteorological Beliefs .
Weather Signs and Portents
Comets and Meteors .
XV. Vocational Superstitions
Superstitions of Kings .
Actors' Superstitions .
Commercial Travellers' Superstitions
Dressmakers' and Seamstresses' Su-
' Sailors' Superstitions
•Fishermen's Superstitions .
Turfmen's Superstitions .
Waiters' Superstitions .
XVI. (Miscellaneous) Portents of Evil
Breaking Friendship .
Drinking Toasts ....
Pious Ejaculations .
XVII. Superstitions of the Orthodox Jew
It is an interesting question as to how the many
superstitious beliefs and practices had their begin-
ning. The origin of most of them is no doubt
to be found in man's efforts to explain the phe-
nomena of nature, and in an attempt to propitiate
an angry deity and to invite a better fortune.
From these sources come many of the absurd
notions still in vogue among primitive people,
which have been handed down in modified form
Man has ever found it difficult to understand
the mysteries surrounding him on all sides, and
groping in the dark he has tried by prayer, incan-
tation or peculiar practices to force nature to do
Superstition, therefore, arises primarily from
ignorance. Early man believed that every phe-
nomenon of nature was the work of a spirit or
devil. His intelligence could not suggest any
other explanation. To this belief was added fear.
The thunder, the lightning, the earthquake, dark-
ness — all filled him with fearful dread. To him
2 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
they were the workings of spiteful powers to be
propitiated. Where ignorance and fear are sur-
rounded by danger they will always grope for a
way of escape. Thus superstition is born. A be-
lief in the existence of spirits antagonistic to man
gave rise to most of the old superstitions.
There is no nation, however ignorant or ad-
vanced, which does not recognize customs, rites,
usages and beliefs which have their origin in
superstition. The Bible speaks of such practices
as had found their way from pagan sources into
the monotheistic beliefs of the Israelites, calls them
"abominations," and warns the Jews against them.
The penalty of death was attached to sorcery, yet
many of the superstitious practices continued to be
observed, as is proved by the invocation by Saul
of Samuel's spirit. All the prophets spoke strenu-
ously against the existing immoral and supersti-
tious rites, and Judaism was probably the first reli-
gion that attempted to free itself from their
shackles. In Egypt, Greece and Rome, supersti-
tion gave birth to mythology with its pagan rites
and ceremonies. During the Dark and Middle Ages
when people were for the most part illiterate,
superstition flourished with unprecedented vigor.
Every religious sect gave rise to new beliefs. The
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 3
Crusades had the effect of bringing to Europe
many oriental practices and ideas that in the
course of time became grafted on the religious
habits of the people, and not a few of them have
been handed down to our own times.
It is, in fact, a difficult matter at times to draw
the line between superstition and religion, for what
appears as a sacred rite to one creed may appear
as rank folly to the adherent of another. The
Fiji Islander, for example, believes that thunder
is a sign of God's anger, and he falls flat on his
face and mutters an invocation to appease the
deity. To an enlightened European this becomes
a superstition, yet this same European may wear
an amulet or charm to ward off sickness or bad
luck, and the Fiji Islander might be moved to
laughter at the idea.
In fact, certain superstitions had their origin
in one sect trying to oppose the tenets of another
sect. Again many superstitions were created by a
literal or often a false interpretation of the Bible.
For instance, among the Jews it was considered
lucky to begin a journey on Tuesday, because in
describing the third day of Creation, it is said:
"God saw that it was good." On the other hand,
it was thought unlucky to commence anything on
4 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
Monday, when God omitted to say it was good.
Similarly Christians have a superstition that
Friday is a bad day to begin an important work,
because Christ was crucified on that day. The
fear of sitting down with thirteen at table had its
origin in the Last Supper and its sad ending.
Many a superstition had its beginning in a
command that was laid down to teach a lesson or
avoid trouble. For instance, it is considered bad
to step over a child. This may have had its be-
ginning when a careful father feared that in step-
ping over a child one might accidentally step on it
and cripple it. To drive the lesson home more ef-
fectively, it was stated that stepping over a child
would stunt its growth, and in that form it is still
held in respect by many at the present time. So
also the belief that it is unlucky to sing before
breakfast may have been taught by an indolent
father who hated to have his morning slumbers
disturbed by his daughter's singing, and so fright-
ened her off by an admonition appealing to her
fear. Every superstition can probably be traced
to a similar cause.
There are few persons, no matter how rational
or level-headed, who are not given to superstition
in some form. With some there is a deep-seated
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 5
belief that evil will result from an infraction of
a rule. With others an amused idea that if a
ceremony does no good it can do no harm, and so
to be on the safe side they carry out some mum-
mery. The lady who will not go to a card party,
unless she wears some particular amulet or jewel,
the man who will not speculate or play cards with-
out first touching his lucky coin or pocket-piece,
the fisherman who spits on his bait for good luck,
are all descendants of the primitive savage who
tried by some secret method to force nature to be
good to him.
One reason why superstition has not yet died
out among intelligent people is because it is con-
tagious. In colonial days in Salem even the
learned professors and lawyers believed in witch-
craft. It was in the very air. Children brought up
in an atmosphere of credulity rarely rise above it.
It is the hardest thing to shake off superstitious
prejudices. They are sucked, as it were, with our
mother's milk, and become so interwoven with
our thoughts that a very strong mind is required
to shake them off. They become a sort of religion,
semisacred in their appeal. No wonder that the
lower classes cannot abandon them and that even
men of intellect cling to them.
6 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
It is the object of this book to review the sub-
ject of superstition without prejudice or condem-
nation, but to present the data and explain their
origin wherever possible, leaving it to the reader
to reject such beliefs as seem absurd and irrecon-
cilable with modern culture.
In some countries it is customary to throw
money over the heads of the bride and groom as
they come out of church, — it insures fortune.
In Scandinavian countries a speech is usually
made at the wedding feast or a song is sung,
which winds up in an unexpected crash. This
sets everybody laughing and is a signal for general
congratulations and good wishes.
It was formerly customary in Germany to carry
old dishes outside of the door and break them in
the street. If a single piece escaped demolition,
it was considered a bad sign.
Sprinkling the bride with wheat is a lucky sign.
It takes the place of rice in some sections. Both
are considered emblems of fruitfulness.
Among the Slavs a can of beer is poured over
the horse belonging to the bridegroom.
Flinging the stocking was an old custom on the
bridal eve. The young men took the bride's stock-
ings and the girls those of the groom, and threw
them over their heads. If they fell upon the bride
8 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
or groom to whom they belonged, the thrower was
sure to be married soon.
In Yorkshire after the couple have gone away,
the cook pours a kettle full of hot water on the
stone before the front door in order that another
wedding will soon occur from the same house.
It is considered a sign of good luck if the bride
does not walk into the groom's house, but is lifted
over the sill by her nearest relatives.
It is lucky for the bridesmaids to throw away
a pin on the wedding day, and unlucky to be stuck
In Brittany a girl who can secure the pins used
to fasten the bride's dress, is sure of an early
It is considered unlucky for a pair to be married
in church if there is an open grave in the church-
It is unlucky to. be married in green.
The wearing of orange blossoms at a wedding
ensures good luck.
In the Middle Ages it was considered a bad
omen if the couple met a cat, dog, lizard, serpent
or hare; but to meet a wolf, spider or toad was
a good sign.
It is unlucky for a bride to look into a mirror
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS g
after she is completely dressed. Some article must
be put on after she is through admiring herself.
The sneezing of a cat on the eve of a wedding
is a lucky omen.
A man going to be married, who meets a male
acquaintance, rubs his elbow to ensure good luck.
In China, if a bethrothal is being arranged, it
is postponed in case anything unlucky, such as
the breaking of a vase or bowl or the loss of any-
Among the Highlanders great care is taken
that no dog runs between the couple on their way
to be married.
It was formerly considered unlucky if the bride
did not weep at her wedding. It portended tears
A storm with thunder and lightning is a bad
omen during a wedding ceremony.
To marry a man whose name begins with the
same letter as one's own is sometimes considered
If a younger daughter chances to get married
before her older sisters, the older girls should
dance at her wedding barefoot.
A clot of soot coming down a chimney at a
wedding feast is a bad omen.
io SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
If the bride accidentally breaks a dish at the
wedding feast it is a bad sign.
A bird dying in his cage on the day after a
wedding is a bad sign. A bird sitting on the
window sill chirping is a good omen.
To meet a funeral either in going or coming
from a wedding is always a sign of ill fortune. If
the funeral is that of a male, it means an early
death for the groom; if of a woman, the bride
will soon die.
It is unlucky for a woman to read the marriage
service entirely through. She will never get a
Bees should be informed that a wedding is in
progress and their hives decorated. It brings
If at the wedding dinner an unmarried person
sits between the bride and groom it means that
there will soon be another wedding.
Marriages on the last day of the year are con-
Easter engagements are said to foretell money,
those at Ascension, health, those at Trinity, a big
family, those at Whitsuntide, peace and comfort
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS n
LUCKY PERIODS FOR MARRIAGES
The notion that certain times of the year are
more favorable to marriages than others, had its
origin in the days of ancient Rome. The goddess
Maia was not propitious to marital happiness,
whereas Juno, as a good and virtuous wife of
Jupiter, was the* patron of happy marriages.
Brides, therefore, selected June in preference to
May, as their hymeneal month. For similar rea-
sons March being dedicated to the god Mars, was
not a favorable month, as disputes were apt to be
the rule between the contracting parties. Every
month had its good or bad influence.
Even at the present time, May is considered an
unlucky month for marriages. In Oriental coun-
tries, however, May being the month of flowers,
is the proper month for orange blossoms.
June is a popular month for marriages among
Americans and Europeans. Some authorities be-
lieve that June's having the longest day of the year
is symbolical of a long and happy marriage.
A wedding on St. Valentine's Day or other
popular holiday, indicates a happy union.
Being married during a thunder storm is a sign
of bad luck. If the sun shines right after a
storm, the auspices are good for a happy union.
12 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
Getting married on Sunday is a sure sign of a
fortunate union. Friday is a bad day on which
to get married. Other days of the week are about
equal in their effect upon the destinies of a mar-
A marriage during a heavy snow-storm is con-
sidered lucky; although the contracting parties may
never be wealthy, they will be happy.
An old astrological almanac gives the following
as lucky days on which to be married : —
BRIDAL CAKES — BRIDESMAIDS
Bride cakes, or wedding cakes, are a survival
of an ancient Roman custom. When a wedding
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 13
was solemnized the bride and groom ate a cake
of wheat or barley in the presence of ten wit-
nesses. The crumbs were carefully preserved by
the unmarried women present to insure their
Slices of cake passed thru the bride's wedding
ring and eaten by the bridesmaids, will bring
a husband within a year.
A piece of wedding cake should be put under the
pillow of a maiden and if she dreams of a man,
she will marry him within a year.
In some countries a plain gold ring is baked in
the wedding cake and the maiden who gets the
slice with the ring will have the privilege of pro-
posing to a man of her choice.
Bridesmaids date from Anglo-Saxon times. It
was the bridesmaid's duty to escort the bride to
church, and it was believed that the girl on whom
this honor fell would be married within a year.
A bridesmaid who stumbles on the way to the
altar will die an old maid.
It is a custom for the groom to present his at-
tendants with some gift as a souvenir of the oc-
casion. This must be carefully preserved. If
lost, the loser is apt to remain unmarried.
14 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
SHOES AND WEDDINGS
Throwing a shoe over or at a newly married
couple is a custom in many countries and is sup-
posed to bring good luck. The origin is uncer-
tain but the shoe has been considered a symbol of
authority, and as the bride has just broken from
her parent's protection it is probable that the act
symbolizes the breaking away from old associates.
It has also been explained that it is thrown at the
bridegroom in the spirit of retaliation for having
carried off the bride.
It is now looked upon as an augury of luck and
of long life to the bride. In an old book by Ford-
ham we read, "He would have been content had his
neighbors thrown his old shoes after him when he
went home, in sign of good luck." Ben Jonson
wrote in a letter, "Would I had Kemp's shoes to
throw after you, — " Kemp being a man remark-
able for his good fortune. John Heywood in an
old play says: "Now for good luck cast an old
shoe after 'me." Beaumont and Fletcher say in
one of their comedies: "Your shoes are old, pray
put 'em off and let one fling 'em after us."
In Scandinavia a shoe of the bride is thrown
among the wedding guests and good luck or a
speedy marriage attends the one who catches it-
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 15
In Scotland a volley of old shoes or slippers
is cast at the couple for luck, but true to Scottish
thrift, they are all collected again after the couple
In the Isle of Man a shoe is thrown after the
groom as he leaves his home on the way to be
married. If by stratagem one of the bride's shoes
can be taken off her feet on the way to church,
it has to be ransomed by the bridegroom, who
must treat the entire crowd.
Among the ancient Peruvians it used to be the
custom for a prospective groom to go to the girl's
house and, after gaining her father's consent, put
a pair of shoes on her feet. If she consented, he
led her to his home with the shoes on.
In Russia it is the custom to throw an old shoe
or broken crockery for luck at the door of a newly
married couple, — crockery being cheaper than
In parts of Hungary it is customary on the
wedding night for the groom to drink a toast to
his fair lady out of her slipper.
Among the Orthodox Jews the shoe has a dif-
ferent marital function. A childless widow is
constrained, according to the Bible, to marry her
deceased husband's brother. If, however, she de-
16 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
clines, he may give her a release. In that case
she fastens the laces of his shoe and is free to
marry whom she pleases.
The shoe as a symbol of a fruitful marriage is
celebrated in that well-known Mother Goose
"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe;
She had so many children she didn't know what
Rings set with certain precious stones or en-
graved with mystic characters were in all times
supposed to influence the character and conduct
of people. There are many old legends about the
wonderful effect of these charms.
The ring worn by the Jewish High Priest was
supposed to possess wonderful powers, given by
heaven. The ring worn by Solomon gave him
divine powers by which he acquired the knowledge
of the laws of the universe.
The wedding ring which Joseph was supposed
to have given to the Virgin Mary was an object
of adoration for many ages, and many miracles
were accomplished by it. It is still shown in the
Cathedral of Perugia, but it seems that other
churches also make claim to possessing the orig-
inal. This ring, however, has been described as
a very thick gold circlet, large enough to fit a
The power of making its wearer invisible was
ascribed to the ring worn by King Gyges of
Lydia, and it had also many other powers, such
18 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
as bringing together long separated friends, allay-
ing jealously, etc.
Astrological rings are worn to the present day,
the stone or metal being in conformity with the
signs of the planets, and thus bringing luck to
Rings are often used for divination. A number
of rings, each inscribed with a name, are thrown
into a bag, and one drawn at random. The
answer to any question is thus given.
Rings are considered a preventive of many
diseases. For the cure of croup an amber ring
is often worn. For cramp and abdominal pains,
a ring made of a coffin nail is supposed to be
efficacious. For rheumatism, a copper ring, or
one of copper and zinc welded together, is thought
to have curative powers.
Marcellus, an old Roman physician, prescribed
for a pain in the side, a gold ring inscribed with
certain Greek characters and worn on the hand of
the side opposite the pain. Trallian, another an-
cient doctor, cured colic and bilious complaints by
an octangular ring of iron on which he engraved
a message to the disease to leave the body.
Rings on which were engraved the names of
three kings of Cologne were considered efficacious
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 19
in the cure of various disorders. On them were
also engraved the words, "God is a remedy."
For sore eyes, a plain gold wedding ring is con-
sidered a sovereign remedy to this day.
A ring made of a silver coin, taken from a
beggar, is supposed to be a cure for epilepsy.
Among the peasantry of France, before a couple
are wed, a ring of iron is put on the forefinger
of the bride. It is usually made of a nail of a
horseshoe. In certain parts a ring of straw is
used. These are first blessed by the priest and
insure a happy life.
In Russia, in order to discover which girl of a
village shall be married first, each places a ring
in a little heap of corn on the barn floor. A
rooster is then let loose among the corn. He
pecks at the grains until one ring is exposed. The
owner will be married before her companions.
In Sweden girls hide under teacups or kitchen
pots a ring, a coin and a piece of black ribbon.
If the ring comes to light first, the owner will
marry, if the coin, she will get a rich husband,
but if the ribbon, she will die an old maid.
To find a ring is a sign of good luck if it be
gold, of peace of mind if it be silver, but of
trouble, if it be brass.
20 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
ENQAGEMENT AND WEDDING RINGS
Rings have figured prominently in marriages
from prehistoric times, and many superstitions
cling to them. It is not strange that a rite that
is fraught with such serious results to the con-
racting parties should have awakened a sense of
dread and a desire to foretell the future by specu-
lation and divination.
Among some peoples instead of exchanging
rings a piece of gold or money is broken in halves,
each party keeping a half. To lose one's half is
considered very unlucky.
An engagement ring is supposed to be:
is a harbinger of luck and happiness.
An engagement ring with the bride's birthstone
"A contract of eternal bond of love,
Confirmed by mutual joinder of your hands."
Formerly men wore engagement rings, as well
as women, but in the course of time left them off
as being a sign of bondage.
A diamond engagement ring is especially lucky,
as diamonds are considered the highest form of
gift, and the sparkle is supposed to originate in
the fires of love.
A pearl in a ring is unlucky, as pearls signify
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 21
To lose a stone out of an engagement ring fore-
tells bad luck, unless it is replaced before the wed-
ding takes place.
During the Commonwealth in England, the
Puritans tried to abolish wedding rings as being
a remnant of heathen practice.
The ring, being round and without end, is a sym-
bol of never-ending love and affection that should
continue to flow in an uninterrupted circle.
If a wedding ring breaks, it is a sign of marital
A wedding ring that has been worn to a thin
thread is lucky and brings luck to the wearer's
The wedding ring is usually worn on the fourth
finger of the left hand. The probable reason is
that the left hand is not used as much as the right
and the fourth finger is rarely used alone.
It was formerly believed that a special artery led
from the heart to the fourth finger.
Among Orientals the ring is usually worn on the
index finger of the left hand, which is called the
A wedding ring rubbed three times on the eye
is supposed to be a cure for styes.
22 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
A wedding ring should be turned around three
times if you want your wish to come true.
It is unlucky to take off your wedding ring ex-
cept in cases of necessity.
LUCKY AND UNLUCKY DAYS AND
The belief that some days bring luck and others
the opposite, is prevalent the world over and has
its origin in astrology. Few intelligent people
are free from this superstition.
If a person has had luck on a certain day, three
times in succession, it is safe to assume that it is
his lucky day and any business undertaken on that
day will prove successful. Conversely, if a day
has shown itself unfortunate, business or travel-
ling should be avoided on that day.
A day that is good for one person may be cor-
respondingly unlucky for another. What is one
man's food is another man's poison.
Religious persons believe that the last Monday
in December is unlucky for serious matters, as
Jesus was betrayed on that day,
Friday is generally considered unlucky for any
new undertaking, because Jesus was crucified on
If Friday falls on the thirteenth of any month,
it is doubly unlucky for business or speculation.
24 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
John Gibbons, an eminent scientist considered
Friday an unusually lucky day. He was born,
christened and married on that day and was for-
tunate in all of his undertakings.
To move into a new home on Friday is un-
lucky. Monday and Wednesday are particularly
To be born on the 29th of February, leap year,
is considered lucky and the person will be success-
ful as a speculator.
An old verse says:
"There are days of which the careful heed,
When enterprise will sure succeed/ '
Books on astrology give the following as un-
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 25
October, 4 6 16 24
November, 5 6 15 20 29 30
December, 6 y 9 15 22
Never undertake any important business on a
day that has brought you any misfortune or calam-
According to old astrologers, six days are
perilous to sick persons, and it is not safe to let
blood on these days. They are January 3, July 1,
October 2, April 30, August 1, and December 31.
Thursday in May was never to be regarded as
a holy day, according to an ancient church author-
No vines are to be planted during leap year, as
they will not thrive.
An old missal gives the following predictions
regarding certain days of the year:
Of this first month the opening day
And seventh like a sword will slay.
The third day bringeth down to death,
The fourth will stop a strong man's breath.
The first the greedy glutton slays,
The fourth cuts short the drunkard's days.
26 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
The tenth day and the eleventh too,
Are ready death's fell work to do.
The third to slay poor men had power,
The seventh destroyeth in an hour.
The tenth a pallid visage shows,
No faith nor truce the fifteenth knows.
The thirteenth is a fatal day,
The tenth alike will mortals slay.
The first kills strong men at a blow,
The second lays a cohort low.
The third day of the month September
And tenth bring evil to each member.
The third and tenth with poisoned breath
To men are foes as foul as death.
The fifth bears scorpion stings of pain,
The third comes with distraction's train.
The seventh is bad for human life,
The tenth with serpent's sting is rife.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 27
"The lucky have whole days in which to choose,
The unlucky have but hours, and these they
Sunday is a pun day, Monday 's a dun day,
Tuesday 's a news day, Wednesday 's a friend's
day, Thursday 's a cursed day, Friday 's a dry day,
Saturday 's the latter day.
Born on Monday, fair of face ; born on Tuesday,
full of grace; born on Wednesday, sour and sad;
born on Thursday, merry and glad; born on
Friday, worthily given; born on Saturday, work
hard for your living. Born on Sunday, you '11
never know want.
The day of the week on which the 3rd of May
falls is unlucky for taking an account of cattle
on a farm. St. Stephen's day is unlucky for
The Spanish have a proverb which says: Don't
wed, don't go aboard a ship-and don't leave your
wife on Thursday.
According to a Spanish belief, Saturday always
is sunny and therefore lucky. Wednesday in
Passion Week is always rainy and therefore un-
lucky. On that day it is said that Peter went
out and wept, hence heaven sends rain to com-
memorate his tears.
28 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
An Italian belief fixes Tuesday and Friday as
unlucky days for a voyage and for a marriage.
The Japanese have designated five days of the
year as unlucky, and in order to avert their bad
influence have made them the days of great festi-
vals. It is customary to wish one another happi-
ness on those days in order to oppose their other-
wise unhappy effects. They never begin a jour-
ney on an inauspicious day and there is a printed
table in all their roadhouses and inns, showing
what days of the month are unfavorable for
The French regard Sunday as a very lucky day
for all enterprises.
According to an old Hebraic tradition, the sun
always shines on Wednesday, for according to the
Bible, it was created on that day. Therefore,
it is a good day for any enterprise.
The 14th of April, 1360, was called "Black
Monday." King Edward III with his army lay
before Paris and the day was so dark, cold and
Unhealthy that many soldiers died from exposure
and were frozen on the backs of their horses.
This day was commemorated in England for many
The Turks consider the 13th, 14th and 15th
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 29
of each month as lucky days to transact business
and go on a voyage.
It is considered unlucky to take a trip imme-
diately after hearing of the death of a friend.
In certain parts of England, Tuesday and
Wednesday are lucky days. It is thought unlucky
to turn a feather bed or mattress on Sunday.
A Scotchman rarely begins anything on the day
of the week on which May 3rd falls. He calls
it the "Dismal Day."
Among the Hindoos, Monday is considered a
lucky day for a trip. Sunday is lucky for sowing
seed or beginning a building. Tuesday is lucky
for soldiers in battle. Wednesday is a lucky day
for merchants and good for collecting debts.
Thursday is good for beginning a new business.
Friday is lucky for the making of friends and
the wearing of new garments. Saturday is un-
lucky, as it excites quarrels.
NEW YEAR'S SUPERSTITIONS
The first day of the year is naturally a day of
importance as its events may have a tendency to
affect all the days that are to follow. Many a
strange belief, therefore, centres about this day
in all lands, and the symbols of future good or
30 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
bad luck are eagerly sought in everything that
In many parts of England it is believed that if
a male person crosses the threshold first, it be-
tokens good luck, whereas, if a female be the
first to cross, bad luck is sure to follow. A man
or boy, therefore, is often hired to enter a house
before the occupants are up. Whole bands of
males are employed for a small fee, for this pur-
If a clergyman be the first to enter a home on
New Year's Day the significance is good.
Chimneys used to be cleaned on New Year's
Day in England, so that luck could descend and
remain all the year.
It was considered luckier for a dark-haired man
than for a fair-haired man to be the first to enter
a home. A bachelor was luckier than a married
man. A widower brought bad luck.
It is customary in some parts for the first visitor
to bring a gift of a cake or loaf of bread, to in-
dicate prosperity for the rest of the year.
It is considered unlucky to remove anything
from a house on New Year's Day, until something
has been brought in from without. Each visitor
therefore brings a slight gift.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 31
Eating a cake is considered a sure bringer of
luck on the first of the year. In rural districts,
special New Year cakes are baked for this pur-
To lend something to a friend is sure to bring
a good return.
To put on new clothes on New Year is con-
sidered lucky, so also to bathe.
Money earned on New Year's Day will bring
a hundredfold in its train.
Resolutions made on New Year's day should
be carried out, if they are good, and will insure
It is good to give alms on the New Year. In
many parts poor folks are invited to partake of
the family's cheer.
APRIL FOOL'S DAY
The first of April was celebrated among the
ancients as the beginning of the vernal equinox
amid general frolicking, and from that is de-
rived our own April Fool's Day. It is custom-
ary to send people upon foolish errands and make
them appear ridiculous.
The celebration of this day is world wide.
Even in pagan India the people join in the fun.
32 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
In Mohammedan countries the highest castes vie
with each other in playing practical jokes.
To be fooled by a pretty girl denotes that you
will marry the girl if you are single, or befriend
her if already married.
To lose your temper when sent on a fool's er-
rand, means bad luck.
To get married on April Fool's Day means that
the lady will wear the breeches and the man play
Children born on this day will be lucky in legi-
timate business but unlucky in speculation.
This day commemorates the ascension of the
Savior into heaven and is the occasion of many
To work on this day, especially in underground
quarries or mines, is considered unlucky in Catho-
lic countries, and even in England underground
work is suspended from dawn to dusk.
Wells and reservoirs are decorated with flowers
to insure pure water during the year.
To fall or stumble is particularly unlucky, and
means a loss of health or money. An ancient way
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS. 33
of preventing disaster if you have fallen is to lie
flat on the ground and say:
"Raise me up and comfort me, Angel of Mercy."
Alms given to a blind or lame man on this day
will come back a hundredfold.
Begin the day by giving away a coin, however
small. It will bring you an unexpected fortune
within the year.
Easter commemorates the resurrection of the
Savior from the dead, and in all countries it is
celebrated with peculiar rites and ceremonies.
"Lifting" is an old custom that is supposed to
illustrate the rising from the grave. Men and
women would visit each other, and go through
the following practice. A person would lie flat
upon his back. Four others would take hold of
him, one at each leg and arm and lift him up three
times. There is a belief that if the recumbent
person holds his breath, he can be lifted by the
little finger of each of the four lifters.
Girls were often put into a chair and lifted by
boys who claimed a kiss for their trouble. This
was also called "heaving/'
Easter eggs had their origin in the belief that
34 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
the egg was a symbol of the Resurrection. Some
attribute their origin to their symbolizing Spring.
Dyeing eggs in lively colors was a token of joy
or gayety. Red dye was taken as a symbol of
Eggs are often blessed on Easter before being
eaten. They then keep away bodily ailments.
To win an egg by "picking" brings good luck.
It is a popular game with boys.
To find two yokes in an Easter egg foretells
a great gain in wealth.
To refuse to eat an Easter egg, if offered by a
friend, signifies a loss of friendship.
Rabbits are supposed to lay eggs on Easter.
This is an old Teutonic belief.
Among the more popular Easter pastimes are
rolling eggs down hill and finding hidden eggs.
Both are considered lucky ceremonies.
It is considered lucky to plant garden seed and
potatoes on Good Friday.
Good Friday is the best day in the year for
It is a sign of luck to break pottery on Good
Friday. It will save the house from damage
during the rest of the year.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 35
ST. JOHN'S EVE.
This is a popular day in England and Ireland
and many a superstition is connected with it.
Bonfires are built in memory of the ancient
druids, and children dance around them. To
jump over a bonfire insures luck for the next
While looking into the fire, the men throw
pieces of wheaten cake over their shoulders,
"This I give thee to preserve my horses, or
my sheep." This is supposed to propitiate the
Biblical idol, Baal.
When a Scotchman goes to bathe or drink at
a fountain or well on this day, he always ap-
proaches by going around the spot from east to
west on the south side, in imitation of the motion
of the sun. This is called "going around the
Dancing around a fire propitiates the forces
of evil. It is also a demonstration of joy and
a plea for good luck.
Watch the flames and if you see a familiar face
therein, beware of that person, as he will harm
36 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
This day is celebrated in Christian countries as
the day of the "Purification of the Virgin." It
had its origin in Roman times in honor of the
goddess Februa, after whom February was named.
Every pious Catholic goes to church on that day
with a lighted candle in supplication to "Our
Lady" for success in household affairs.
In many parts of England the day is connected
with the collection of rents and leases are still
made out beginning with Candlemas Day.
The agent of an estate comes at midnight and
knocks at the door of his tenant. "I come," he
cries, "to demand my lord's just dues: eight
groats and a penny, a loaf of bread, a cheese, a
collar of brawn and a jack of beer. God save
the King and the Lord of the manor."
To pay rent on Candlemas Day insures freedom
from debt for the year.
To light a candle dedicated to one's saint,
brings good luck.
ST. VALENTINE'S DAY
St. Valentine was a Christian bishop who suf-
fered martyrdom in 270 A. D. on February 14th.
He was later ordained the patron saint of true
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 37
love. Maids and youths were accustomed to be-
come engaged on that day in his honor.
Sending verses and picture cards to one's best
beloved has become a popular pastime in England
and America on Valentine Day. A girl who
fails to receive a remembrance from some swain
is doomed to die an old maid.
Says an old Valentine verse:
"When I go out, the first swain I see,
In spite of fortune shall my true love be."
On the eve of Valentine's Day it was the cus-
tom for a man to get five bay leaves, pin four of
them to the corners of his pillow and the fifth
in the centre, and then go to sleep. If he
dreamed of a girl, he would marry her before
the year was out.
Another custom was to write your friends'
names on pieces of paper, roll them in clay and
throw them into a dish of water. The first paper
that floated up indicated the one you would marry.
If you expect a visit from your true love on
that day, keep your eyes shut till he comes. If
you see another man first, it may mean a loss of
the other's love.
38 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
To be married on Valentine's Day betokens hap-
piness and success.
Christian history has given us this day as
sacred to all saints. In most countries there are
curious rites and ceremonies connected with it.
In Catholic lands it is a day of prayer and the
people visit the churchyards and pray to the
saints and to the departed of their families for
success and for forgiveness of sins. In Protes-
tant countries the day is given over to merriment.
Hallowe'en was originally a day for remember-
ing the dead. Ghosts and spirits are supposed to
wander abroad at night.
Witches and demons make the night their own,
and woe to the person they catch after dark.
Spectres made of pumpkins and sheets are used
both to frighten men and to scare off evil spirits.
To see your shadow cast by the moon is dis-
It is a time full of portents, and there are
various ways of divining the name of one's future
Place two nuts in the fire side by side. If
they burst and fly apart it betokens bad luck and
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 39
a separation. If they burn up together, it is a
good omen, and means a happy marriage.
Pare an apple so that the peel remains in one
long piece. Swing this around your head three
times and throw it on the floor. The letter it
forms will be the initial of your sweetheart's
Walk backwards, looking into a mirror. The
first man or maid whose reflection you see, will
To find two kernels in an almond on Hal-
lowe'en's night is particularly lucky and means
marriage within a month.
In ancient times, when the owners of land had
gathered in their harvest, they feasted with their
servants who helped till the ground. This idea
has been perpetuated in our day in agricultural
countries. Harvest Home is celebrated in most
agricultural countries. In England it partakes of
some of the aspects of Thanksgiving Day.
The "Kern Baby" is much in evidence in these
festivities. It is an image dressed up and deco-
rated with corn or wheat and carried before the
reapers as a sign of luck.
40 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
In some places a big doll dressed up in tinsel
with a sheaf of wheat under its arm is placed on
a pole and the harvest hands dance around it, re-
Sometimes a real girl is dressed up in a robe
of wheat and is paraded around the field for luck.
A corn supper in which all partake winds up the
A special prayer to one's favorite saint is usual
before the harvest, to insure good weather till
the wheat is all garnered.
In Catholic countries, the first wheat garnered
is shaped into a cross which is hung in front of
the granary for good luck.
A red ear of corn is considered a lucky find.
It should be carefully preserved until the next
An ear of corn with seven or fourteen rows
is especially lucky and betokens a good harvest.
A festival corresponding to Christmas was held
in Rome in honor of Bacchus, but with the ad-
vent of Christianity it changed its character and
was solemnized to celebrate the birth of Christ.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 41
Many of the old pagan rites and superstitions still
Mistletoe was held in high esteem by the druids
and regarded with religious superstition. They
used it in their incantations. It is used for decor-
ating during Christmas, and is usually hung from
A girl standing under a piece of mistletoe may
be kissed by any man who finds her there. If
she refuses to be kissed, she invites bad luck.
If she be kissed seven times in one day, she will
marry one of the lucky fellows within a year.
In olden days mistletoe was laid on the altars
in churches as an emblem of the grace of the
Savior, and betokened a prosperous year.
In York, England, mistletoe is laid upon the
altar of the cathedral and the priest proclaims
freedom to all wicked souls.
Evergreen leaves and boughs are also a relic of
paganism, and are supposed to bring cheer and
The Christmas tree is a survival of northern
mythology and was first made popular in Scan-
dinavian countries when they adopted Christian-
ity. It symbolizes the ever green and abiding
power of salvation.
42 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
Christmas candles probably had their origin in
the Jewish festival of lights (Chanuca), which
occurs at the same time. Lights are lit for seven
days to commemorate the victories of the Maccab-
Yule logs are large logs of wood that are thrown
into the grate to make the Christmas eve more
festive. The flame is supposed to keep out evil
influences. Christmas candles serve the same end.
To see a familiar face in the blaze of a yule
log, betokens an early marriage with the person
To become engaged on Christmas eve, is a sure
sign of a happy married life.
A child born on Christmas day will be free
from care and very lucky.
St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus is the patron
saint of Christmas. He is supposed to come down
the chimney with his pack on his back and dis-
tribute toys and gifts to old and young. The
only way to secure his favor is to be good and
Kris Kringle is another name for Santa Claus.
It is derived from the German "Krist Kindli" or
Christ Child. He is represented as entering homes
and making children happy on the "Holy Night."
SIGNS OF GOOD OR BAD LUCK
"Good and ill luck," says the French philoso-
pher, Montaigne, "are in my opinion sovereign
powers. It is absurd to think that human prudence
is able to act the same part as Fortune will do."
"There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how will will."
The belief in the power of some object or
some act to produce a change in one's fortunes
for better or for worse, is inherent in the human
race. There are few words in our language that
have such a universal application as LUCK. The
man who believes in nothing else, believes in
luck and performs some mummery to propitiate
the goddess of Fortune, who moves in such mys-
terious ways to perform her deeds.
Luck may be defined as chance, or if a man
be religious, as Providence. Among the ancients,
Fortuna was depicted as a blindfolded woman
with a horn of plenty, or with a wheel as an em-
blem of instability and chance.
44 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
The Romans had a habit of casting into an
urn a stone every day, the color of the stone de-
noting whether the person was in good or bad
luck. At the end of the year the stones were
counted and a balance cast to see whether good
or bad preponderated.
It is unlucky to be recalled after starting away
on a voyage. At least a day should be allowed to
elapse before starting out again.
To leave home and be compelled to come back
for some article which was forgotten, is unlucky,
unless you sit down for a moment before going
out a second time.
Carrying a crust of bread in one's pocket is
considered lucky and brings prosperity.
If in eating you miss your mouth and the
food falls, it is unlucky and denotes illness.
A bent coin or one with a hole in it, are often
carried for good luck. A crooked sixpence is
popular for this purpose in England.
In many rural districts it is customary to give
back to a customer of corn or cattle a small part
of the money he has just paid. This is called
In some countries the buyer gives the seller a
small coin to insure his luck.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 45
To count your gains is supposed to bring bad
luck. To reckon on money you are to receive and
lay out plans of spending it, is considered un-
lucky. One should never count one's chickens
before they are hatched.
Burning tea leaves is supposed to bring good
luck, but to burn the leaves of a rose is a bad
Finding a four-leaf clover is a sure sign of
good luck. It should be worn in the lapel or
pinned to one's coat.
There is a legend that Eve on being ejected
from Paradise took a four-leaf clover with her.
To pluck an ash leaf was considered lucky in
On meeting a person out on new business, it is
well to salute him with "I wish you good luck."
It is bad luck to shake hands with any one
across the table.
It is a bad omen to find the bellows on the
It is a sign of ill luck to find money and not
spend it. It should be spent in a good cause, or
given in charity.
46 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
"See a pin and pick it up, all the day you'll have
See a pin and leave it lay, you will have bad
luck all the day."
It is lucky to throw a small coin into a well of
To sit crosslegged is considered a sign of good
luck. To cross one's fingers is another way of
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
The Cross, the emblem of Christianity, has
served many superstitions. It is a bringer of
good luck and wards off evil.
Contrary to the generally accepted belief, the
Cross did not have its origin as a religious em-
blem in Christianity. The Indians, when Colum-
bus first landed, had similar devices. Cortez
found the cross universally adored by the Aztecs,
and this led the Spanish priests to claim that the
devil had given it to them in order to damn them
with a false religion. The Hindoos, too, had a
cross among their religious symbols.
Making the sign of the cross at rising or lying
down, at going out or coming in, at lighting of
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 47
candles or closing of windows, etc., is considered
a pious and profitable ceremony.
An old church writer says :
"At the delivery of the bread and wine of
the sacrament, the worshippers flourish with their
thumbs like making the sign of the cross. They
also do it when coming to church or saying their
In Spain, "no woman goes in a coach or
travels without crossing herself. It keeps away
evil and ensures a safe trip."
In Catholic countries, signposts and even tav-
ern signs bear a cross as a sign of good luck.
In some countries when a woman milks a cow
she dips her finger in the milk with which she
crosses the cow, muttering a prayer. This will
make the milk flow freely.
Easter buns are marked with a cross as a sign
To hold up a crucifix, or anything resembling
a cross was the surest way of defeating the devil.
In "Faust," Valentine drives off Mephistofeles by
holding up the cross-shaped hilt of his sword.
During a thunder storm or in the face of sud-
den danger, make the sign of the cross on your
forehead or breast.
48 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
To cross one's fingers during a game of chance,
brings luck, and the reverse to your opponent.
To dream of a cross is a sign of good fortune to
To cross knives or forks at table is a sign of
In Sicily a bandit will not attack his victim
without first crossing himself and praying to his
favorite saint for protection.
KNOCKING ON WOOD
One of the most prevalent customs, indulged in
by men of science as well as the illiterate man in
the slums, is by touching or knocking on wood
to ward off evil or prevent disappointment. Its
origin is very much in doubt. Some attribute it
to the ancient religious rite of touching a crucifix
when taking an oath. It is also ascribed to the
beads of a rosary touched in prayer. Among the
ignorant peasants of Europe it may have had its
beginning in the habit of knocking loudly to keep
out evil spirits. Its introduction into this country
seems to have been of recent date, but it has be-
come well-nigh universal; even a president of the
United States is accused of resorting to it.
To brag about good health or success, accord-
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 49
ing to the general belief, invites the envy of
the powers of evil, and to counteract this you
must, according to some authorities, touch wood;
while according to other wisacres, you should
knock on wood three times.
Charms made of wood are often worn on
watch chains so that the wearer may have an
article handy for the purpose.
From this practice other superstitions have or-
iginated. A well-known financier always plays
with his massive gold watch chain in the belief
that the touch of gold will insure success.
Sir Walter Scott, while a student at college,
always fumbled with a wooden button which was
attached to his coat. This brought him success
in his recitations. It is related that when his fel-
low students secretly cut off the button, he was
so flustered on discovering its absence, that he
failed hopelessly and was sent to the tail end of
LUCKY AND UNLUCKY OMENS
"She that pricks bread with fork or knife, will
never be a happy wife/'
"Mend your clothes upon your back, sure you
are to come to wrack."
It is unlucky to use elder wood or evergreen to
make a fire.
To find an old flint arrow is considered lucky.
To find nine peas in a pod is a forerunner of
The extreme tip of a calf's tongue, dried and
carried in the pocket, will insure having some
money always in your purse.
A luck-stone, with a hole in it, is sure to bring
Four persons shaking hands in crosswise fash-
ion, foretell a coming marriage.
Two bells ringing in the house at one time fore-
tell a parting. So also does a hollow cavity in a
fresh-cut cake and a loaf that breaks in two
while being cut.
SIGNS, OMENS AND_ SUPERSTITIONS 51
To enter a house with the left foot first brings
bad luck to the occupants.
Christening, as the name indicates, is a cere-
mony which has for its object the consecrating of a
child to the service of Christ, and starting him
on his career as a Christian. It had its origin
in the rites of John the Baptist, who belonged to
a sect that believed that immersion in water would
wash away all sins and prepare the neophyte for
the Kingdom of God, which was supposed to be
near at hand.
In the middle ages a child was usually presented
by its godparents with silver or gold spoons. A
rich sponsor often gave a set of twelve spoons,
one for each of the disciples. Less wealthy peo-
ple gave one or more spoons. These were con-
sidered lucky and induced the child to lead a
The phrase "born with a silver spoon in its
mouth/' arose from this custom.
A silver cup is often given and the child that
drinks from it is supposed to drink happiness
during its life.
The gift of coral and amber in the form of
52 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
a chain or charm to a new-born baby is also be-
lieved to bring good luck. Coral is supposed to
be a defense against "Fascination" or witchcraft.
Amber keeps away infectious diseases.
A Sunday christening is considered lucky and
the child will grow up devout.
A child should always be dressed in white at
its christening. Red ribbons should be avoided.
Three aritcles are frequently given a child when
it is taken to be christened: egg } salt and a coin.
These will give it strength, happiness and wealth.
„ Baptism in a church is luckier than in private.
When a child gives a lusty yell during its
christening, it is a sign that it will have strong
lungs through life.
If two children, a male and a female, are bap-
tised together, the male should have the prefer-
ence or it will grow up to be effeminate.
BELIEFS CONCERNING CHILDREN
It is unlucky to measure a baby with a string
or tape measure, as it may stop growing.
To step over a young child is unlucky and may
stunt its growth.
To hand a child through an open window will
stop the little one's growth.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 53
Children that cry a lot are sure to be lucky.
They will develop fine eyes and broad shoulders.
This does not apply where the crying is caused
by illness or pain.
Women in pregnancy often refuse to take an
oath before an officer of the court as it is sup-
posed to influence the unborn child.
It is supposed to be unlucky for a child to walk
backward when going on an errand.
In Scotland, when a young baby is taken out for
its first airing, the mother or nurse gives some-
thing to eat to the first person she meets. This
ensures the baby's good luck. It is called "the
When a child is taken from its mother and car-
ried out of the bedroom for the first time, it is
luckier to take it upstairs than down. If there
is no upstairs, the same effect can be accomplished
by mounting a short elevation, a platform, or the
rung of a ladder.
When a baby is carried to church to be baptized,
it should be carried by a woman who is known to
have had good luck.
When a baby is carried into a neighbor's house
for the first time, it should be carried there by
the mother herself, in order to insure good luck.
54 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
First of all, however, the baby should be carried to
A creeping child will have better luck than one
that does not creep.
When a very young baby smiles in its sleep,
it is supposed to hold converse with the angels.
BELIEFS CONCERNING EGGS
Eggs have many mystic meanings, and in olden
times were supposed to symbolize the world.
The yoke represented our earth, the white was its
atmosphere, and the shell was the firmament. It
was believed that the universe had its origin in
an egg f and that God brooded over it until it
was hatched out. Milton says: "Dovelike satst
brooding o'er the vast abyss/'
According to an old theorist, the egg typified
the Messiah, the seed that was to bring forth
salvation. The Abyssinians portray the world as
a great ostrich egg.
The Syrians used to speak of their ancestors as
the progeny of eggs. The Hawaiians believe that
their island was produced by the bursting of a
huge egg which had been laid on the water by
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 55
The ancients often said, "Everything springs
from the egg. It is Nature's cradle."
Egyptians worshipped Cneph, the architect of
the world, who was represented with an egg com-
ing out of his mouth.
The druids used eggs in their religious festi-
vals and considered it the symbol of fecundity.
Every druid wore an egg about his neck, encased
in gold, as a symbol of his priestly authority.
The Jews use an egg in their Passover service
as a symbol of Divine Power and help.
Eggs laid on Good Friday are revered in Cath-
olic countries as bringing good luck, and are care-
fully kept all year as talismans. They are sup-
posed to keep the house free from fire.
In Scotland an "eirack's" egg, that is, the first
egg that is laid by a young hen, is gathered as
the principal ingredient of Hallowe'en charm. At
midnight the egg is broken so that the white is-
sues out drop by drop. It is allowed to fall into
a wine glass two-thirds full of water. The palm
of the hand is placed over the rim of the glass
which is turned bottom up, and the albumen set-
tles down near the hand. It assumes vague,
shadowy forms which foretell the occupation the
56 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
person will best thrive in. Thus, if it looks like
a ship, the man should become a sailor.
Another custom in connection with an "eirack's"
egg> is to take the white in one's mouth and go out
into the night without swallowing a drop. If one
hears the name of a man or woman called out
aloud, it foretells the name of the future wife or
Among other curious Hallowe'en customs is the
following: Take a hard-boiled egg t remove some
of the yoke, and fill it up with salt. Then eat the
egg y salt and shell. Do not drink a drop of water
till morning. If you dream of a person of the
opposite sex, it means a marriage, but if the
person you dream of seems to offer you a glass of
water, it means that you will be jilted.
Birds' eggs have been believed to have many
mysterious qualities. The eggs of an owl put
into the cup of a drunkard will cause a loathing
A stork's egg was also considered as a cure of
the habit of drinking.
Persons afflicted with ague are instructed to
visit the nearest crossroads five times in succes-
sion and there bury a new-laid egg. Their dis-
ease will leave them by morning and never return.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 57
Strict silence must be maintained during the whole
operation, as to speak to any one would prevent
For the plague, eggs were often prescribed.
They were usually filled with drugs.
It is believed in England's rural districts that
if one brings primroses into a house, the number
must be at least thirteen, as the hens about the
place will only hatch so many eggs during the
season as there are primroses.
When flowers blossom early and are numerous,
it is believed that hens lay more than in other
When owners of horses eat eggs, it is said that
they should eat an even number, otherwise some
mischief will befall their horses. Grooms are not
allowed to eat eggs, and jockeys must wash their
hands after eating them.
Farmers' wives usually set their hens on an
odd number of eggs, for to set them on an even
number often results in a failure to hatch out a
In Derbyshire the number of eggs put under a
hen must be either eleven or thirteen. If twelve
hens are set, the brood will not hatch out, or
will come to grief afterward.
58 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
In setting a litter of eggs under a hen it is
lucky to swing a lighted candle over the nest as
a charm to prevent hawks or other animals from
destroying the eggs or the young chicks.
In some Catholic countries, the tenth egg laid
by a fowl is supposed to be bigger than the rest,
and is usually offered to the priest.
Breaking egg shells over a child is supposed
to keep him safe from witchcraft.
The goose that lays a golden egg is a popular
myth in many countries. To receive such a valu-
able gift, it is necessary to invoke the name and
help of the devil.
In some sections, it is considered unlucky to
let eggs go out of the house after sunset. It is
also considered unlucky to gather eggs after dark.
All eggs should be gathered in the forenoon. It
is unlucky to gather eggs on Sunday or to set
a hen on the Sabbath.
Duck's eggs, brought into the house after sun-
set will never hatch.
Egg shells should not be burned, or the hens
will cease to lay.
Eggs brought into the house or barn over run-
ning water, will not hatch.
When a child visits a house for the first time,
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 59
it is lucky to give him an egg that was laid that
morning. It will give the child a "start in life"
that will bring success.
To dream of an egg is lucky and means that
a fortune is at hand.
Strings of blown egg shells hung up in a dwell-
ing are unlucky, but if hung up in an outhouse,
bring good luck.
Bats were supposed to come from eggs that
had been hatched out by toads.
In Java the bride, as a sign of submission,
kneels before her master, then treads upon an egg
and washes his feet with the yoke.
The offering of an omelette to a newly married
man by his mother-in-law, as a sign of devotion,
is an old custom in Russia..
CHARMS AND AMULETS
The word "amulet" comes from the Arab,
"Hamala," which means to carry about. It is a
charm or object usually hung about the neck or
on the wrist to ward off sickness and evil. A
charm is similar in its effect.
People are spoken of as having a charmed
life, which means that they seem to be immune to
6o SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
accidents or illness. Many wear charms to in-
sure this result.
Some charms are engraved with peculiar figures
called "talismans," which are supposed to have
the power to prevent loss or illness. They are
often engraved on some seal or precious stone,
and worn on the finger or on a chain about the
The practice of wearing charms or amulets is
very ancient, and many of the objects found in
Egyptian tombs are amulets, intended to serve
the spirits of the dead. Many charms have ob-
tained historic importance, as for instance the
famous Spanish opal in the British museum.
The czar was supposed to be fond of an an-
cient ring in which is embedded a piece of the
true cross. It was supposed to shield its wearer
from death and danger, although it hardly helped
him to keep his throne. He attached such im-
portance to it, that on one occasion he started out
on a journey without it, when suddenly discover-
ing his loss, he delayed the trip eight hours till a
messenger went and got it.
Oriental wrestlers will not go into the prize
ring without wearing a charm about their necks.
Modern folks for the most part wear some sort
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 61
of amulet, or carry a charm in their pockets, but
they do it secretly. They may not actually be-
lieve in its efficacy but want to get the benefit of
it in case it should have some hidden virtue.
Horseshoe-shaped pins, or charms, are consid-
ered very lucky, so is four-leaved clover. Wish-
bones, too, have come into favor in recent years
as they are supposed to have the power of mak-
ing one's wishes come true.
Little pigs are popular as charms, as they are
supposed to bring good luck. In fact, the Ger-
mans say, "Ich habe Schwein," when they want to
signify that they are lucky.
Lucky pennies or other coins are to be found in
many pockets. They drive away evil influences in
business operations and bring luck in money mat-
ters. They must be turned over in one's pocket
at the time of the transaction. *
Horse chestnuts or a small potato are consid-
ered efficacious charms against rheumatism. They
must be carried in the pocket where they soon be-
come hard and absorb all tendency to disease.
The relics of the saints, such as particles of
bones, bits of hair, etc., or splinters from the
cross, have been revered in all Christian lands
for their miracle-working powers. Many churches
62 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
have been erected and many shrines dedicated to
house some such precious relic.
At St. Ann de Beau Pre Church near Quebec,
and at St. Ann Church in New York, wonders
are performed daily and many cripples healed
through touching the particle of bone of the
A charm with the figure of a fish or the word
"Ichthus," formed by the Greek initials of the
name of Jesus, is worn by the Greek Christians
and brings success.
Coins and bits of metal stamped with a cross are
worn about the neck in many lands as a guarantee
of good luck. They are also looked upon as a
cure of epilepsy.
Rings with religious signs and symbols are
often used to cure disease or insure success of the
In the Orient, jade or ornaments from this stone
are used as charms against disease or disaster.
They usually have some symbolic figures carved
Jet was and in some countries is still supposed
to exert a remarkable power over the brain and
nerves, and is therefore much prized for jewelry
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 63
and charms. It was supposed in olden days to
drive away devils and serpents.
Amber is a favorite substance for charms in
countries adjoining the Mediterranean. It is sup-
posed to keep off infectious disease, epilepsy and
other evils. It is frequently made into necklaces
Many other stones, gems or natural substances
are used the world over for their supposed cura-
tive powers, and huge volumes have been written
Adder stones are supposed to be efficacious
against disease of cattle.
Carrying a human molar tooth as a charm is
often considered a remedy for toothache.
Amulets to insure victory are frequent, and
many a soldier goes into battle in the firm belief
that the amulet he wears about his neck or on
his arm will see him safely through. Bibles car-
ried about the person are supposed to be the most
efficacious of these, and in point of fact many
a bullet has been stopped by a Bible placed near
During a plague in England red tape was in
great demand to ward off the evil. It was cut
64 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
into half -yard lengths and worn about the neck
until all danger was past.
Amber and coral necklaces are often placed
on children to give them relief from teething.
Rings and nipples of these substances are pro-
vided for similar purposes.
A charm consisting of laurel leaves is often
worn as a protection against lightning.
Scapulars, pieces of brown cloth in which are
stitched certain verses from the New Testament,
are worn to a great extent by Catholics as a pre-
ventive against perils of flood and sickness.
The word "mascot" is of French origin and
designates anything from a piece of string to a
human being that is supposed to influence the
Fates for the benefit of the possessor. A comic
opera has been built around the idea, in which a
king has very bad luck, until a pretty girl is sent
to him as a mascot, when his fortune begins.
Ships often take a mascot on board before
they sail. This is usually a dog, monkey or
goat, and insures a pleasant voyage.
Regiments of soldiers usually adopt a mascot,
an animal that accompanies them on their marches.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 65
Baseball and football teams take a mascot with
them to insure victory.
Mascots frequently take the shape of a horse-
shoe, charm, four-leaf clover or amulet to be
worn on the person.
The popularity of mascots and in fact all
objects that are supposed to bring luck is best
explained by the fact that they suggest luck, and
the owner acts on the suggestion. A person be-
lieving that some object is going to bring him
fortune, will act with greater faith and assurance,
thus bringing about the condition which he de-
In regard to charms the decorative feature
appeals to many; fear and imagination come next
in their influence on the mind.
Regarding human mascots, their influence is
supposed to be hereditary.
The origin of a belief in the horseshoe as
an emblem of good luck can be traced to the an-
cient days of phallic worship. The peculiar shape
of the shoe became the emblem of sex and of pro-
ductivity. It is a very old belief, therefore, that
a horseshoe will have an influence for good.
66 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
The Moors believed in the horseshoe to such
an extent that their architecture reflects it. Their
mosque and temples all show an arch formation
that had its origin in the form of a shoe, and they
believed that this would insure stability.
The druids also believed in its efficacy, and
many of their religious' places, like Stonehenge
in England, have the semi-circular form of a
An old Roman general ascribed his defeat to
the loss of a horseshoe. Benjamin Franklin para-
phrased this by writing: "Through the loss of
a nail a shoe was lost, through the loss of a
shoe a horse was lost, through the loss of a horse
a battle was lost."
To find a horseshoe is considered lucky. It
should be hung over the door of the house or
barn. It will ensure a good harvest if suspended
over the barn.
A horseshoe should be hung with the open
ends upwards, so that it will "hold luck." If
hung the other way, it will "spill luck."
When going on a long voyage, it will bring
luck to carry a horseshoe in your baggage.
A scarf pin or watch charm in the shape of a
horseshoe is lucky.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 67
The wishbone, or collar bone of a chicken, is
considered lucky on account of its resemblance in
shape to a horseshoe. Two people, each pulling
at one end, can determine who will get married
first. The longer piece is the lucky one.
A horseshoe should have seven holes for nails,
three on one side and four on the other side of
the center heel. This will ensure double luck,
as seven is a number of good fortune.
Rings made of horseshoe nails are sovereign
remedies against bad luck, disease and trouble.
To pick up a pin is lucky; let it lie, is bad
If a pin lies with its head toward you it is
a good sign, but beware of trouble if the point
is towards you.
To prick yourself with a pin on starting en a
trip is a bad omen.
It will break friendship to present any one with
a pin, such as a scarf pin or the like. Such a gift
should be bought. A cent or article of minor im-
portance must be given in exchange.
THE INFLUENCES OF MYTHICAL BEINGS
The belief in fairies and other supernatural
beings is universal, not only among children but
among grown people as well, and many a quaint
and interesting legend has been spun about these
fascinating individuals. Fairy lore comprises the
greater part of our books for young people, and
without fairy tales the lives of children would be
barren indeed. So, also, have many superstitions
grown up about fairies, and they are believed in
by folks that are intelligent as well as by those
that are ignorant.
Fairies are supposed to be supernatural beings,
human in form but very often diminutive, with
superior powers for good or evil. They have the
power of invisibility, but can become visible
when they wish. They are often invoked for
aid, but are never worshipped as were the god-
esses of the pagan world. They enter the habita-
tions of mortals and spread their gifts. Some-
times they do mischief. It is well to keep in the
good graces of fairies.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 69
The Hindoos believe in a kind of fairy that
they call "Acvins." These assist in bringing
lovers together, give succor in trouble and bring
wealth to the deserving.
Persians believe in Peris, delicate ethereal fe-
males, who while not immortal, live very long.
To assist or otherwise get into the good graces
of a Peri means good luck, but to offend one,
brings bad luck.
The Arabian "Jinns" are fairies of a more
austere kind. They are males who can do great
damage if offended and whom it is therefore
well to placate. They are supposed to have lived
before Adam and were once a mighty race, but
war and accident have slain many. Every time
a star shoots across the sky it means the death
of a jinn. They have the power to make them-
selves visible or invisible.
The Jews believed in Shedim, a species of
fairy that was the offspring of Adam. These
beings have wings, are similar to angels, eat,
drink, make merry, and help any mortal who is
kind to them.
The Greeks and Romans had their own con-
ceptions of fairies. They called them dryads,
naiads, fauns, satyrs, etc. They mingled with
70 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
mortals and often intermarried with them. They
brought luck or the reverse as they were favor-
ably inclined. They rewarded any kindness and
Fata Morgana is the Italian conception of a
fairy, the personification of Fortune. Happy the
person who wins her favor.
In France, fairies have different names and
characteristics. There are "follets" who are al-
ways invisible but whose voices are often heard.
They are mischievous and pelt the peasants with
stones. They often enter a house and throw about
the utensils and create disorder from a sense of
humor that is often hard to understand. • Where
a man is in their good graces, however, they
do good and reward virtues. It is considered
lucky to come across their tracks or circles in the
The French also believe in fees, lutins and
goblins. These dance in circles, or fairy rings by
night, haunt solitary springs and grottoes, ride
horses and tie up the horses manes to form stir-
rups. They preside at births, bring luck to babies
in whom they take an interest, give presents, help
along the lovelorn, and do other stunts. They
often take a child out of its cradle and leave one
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 71
of their own brood in its place. This is called
a "changeling," and while such child is apt to
be beautiful, its propensities are for evil.
Scandinavians believe in elves, playful, ma-
licious beings that are up to all sorts of mischief.
They delight in perplexing people, tie the hair of
sleeping children into knots, steal away articles,
and cause no end of trouble. It is well to pro-
pitiate them by kindness, and by leaving some-
thing for them to eat in the grottoes where they
are supposed to dwell.
Teutonic races have their fairies, trolls, gnomes,
dwarfs, who do all manner of mischief. Many
are the strange tales told about them, and many
are the rites and ceremonies resorted to by the
peasantry to get into their good graces.
The Irish are great believers in fairies, and
their literature is filled with tales of their deeds.
Their superstitions concerning them would fill a
good-sized book. They dress in green, are very
pretty and benevolent, help the peasants, bring
lovers together, avoid law suits, do good by
Brownies and kelpies are the Scotch brand
of fairies. They often appear in the form of
cattle or horses, and when people ride on them,
72 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
they throw them off and play other tricks. They
are as mischievous as children, but do nothing
English have their fairies, hobgoblins, Robin
Good fellow, Puck, and other well-known char-
acters. Shakespeare assembled them in one large
clan, with Oberon as their king and Titania as
their queen. They are a well-behaved crew, full
of mischief but with good traits as well.
Some of the more prominent superstitions con-
cerning fairies are the following:
A mole or defect on a person is supposed to
be caused by a fairy nipping him before birth.
A matted lock near the neck of a sleeping
child is called an elflock and is the deed of a
To throw away a peach stone out of a window
is dangerous as it might strike a fairy and kill
it. This would bring bad luck for seven years.
Four-leaved clover usually marks the spot where
fairies congregate and bring good luck.
Round circles often found in the grass indi-
cate the place where fairies dance. To sit in
such a circle with one of the opposite sex, is
sure to bring about a marriage.
When a child is lucky it is a sure proof that
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 73
a fairy godmother stood at its cradle at its birth.
Fossil Echini turned up by the plow, are called
fairy loaves. If you keep a fairy loaf in the
house, you will never want for bread.
If one comes across a "fairy ring," it is luckier
to walk around it than across it.
If you run around a " fairy ring" nine times,
you can hear the sounds of merriment caused
by the fairies dancing under ground.
Fairies reward servants for cleanliness by put-
ting a coin in their shoes.
A fairy entering a dairy spoils the cream.
In many sections of England a prayerbook is
put under a child's pillow to keep away fairies
and pixies. ,
Lumbago, epilepsy and fits are supposed to be
caused by a shot from a malignant fairy.
A knot hole in a deal door is bad as it will let
fairies in. It must be plugged up at once.
The belief in witches is very old. At times
in the history of mankind it has become epidemic
and done untold damage. In the seventeenth
century thousands of old women were burned at
the stake for their supposed intercourse with
74 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
the devil. Doctors and judges as well as ignor-
ant people believed in this nonsense. The witch
was supposed to be a woman who had sold her
soul to the devil, and frequented the Devil's Sab-
bath, riding thither on a broomstick. In rural
districts the belief still prevails to some ex-
When horses break out in a sweat in the
stable, it is believed that a witch has been riding
When a horse's mane is tangled, a witch is
supposed to have tied the knot to use as a stir-
Shoulder bones of sheep are called "hag-
bones' ' because witches are believed to ride on
Eggshells must be broken and not left to lie
about the house, or they may be used by witches
When sick people go into a decline, they are
said to be "overlooked" or bewitched, and there
is little hope for their recovery.
A white witch is one who has the power to re-
move the spell of a bad witch. There are vari-
ous incantations by which this is done.
To prevent a witch from injuring a person,
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 75
he must make an image of wax of the witch and
stick it full of pins. This will cause the witch
to become impotent and die.
Wearing the left stocking inside out, horse-
shoes, spittle, hagstones, etc., are good anti-
dotes to a witches power. The sign of the cross
also prevents their evil.
SIGNS CONNECTED WITH THE BODY.
The custom of muttering a prayer or a pious
wish after sneezing is as old as history. It wa?
accounted very ancient in the time of Aristotle,
who in his "Problems" endeavored to account for
it, but knew nothing of its origin. According to
him the ancients believed that the head was the
seat of the soul and that sneezing in some way
affected the spirit. Hence the necessity of utter-
ing an invocation to preserve the soul from
The Greeks and Romans had a number of
formulas for sneezing, such as, "Long may you
live!" "May you enjoy good health!" "Jupiter
Sneezing was often considered a lucky omen
among the ancients. Their history is full of
events of importance which were ushered in by
a sneeze. The "Odyssey" tells of the "lucky
sneeze of Telemachus." History tells of the
soldiers' sneezing in adoration of a god that rose
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 77
before them in the ranks, an event which Xeno-
phon regarded as a favorable omen.
Aristotle considered a sneeze as divine, but a
cough as vulgar. Petronius mentions the custom
of saying, "Salve" (hail), when a soldier sneezed.
Tiberius Caesar never neglected to observe this
When a Hindoo sneezes, bystanders say, "Live !"
and he replies, "With you!" The Zulus believe
that an angry spirit enters the body and that a
sneeze is an effort of nature to expel it.
Aristotle believed that sneezing from noon till
midnight was a good omen, but from midnight
till the next noon was a sign of bad luck.
All nations have some formula for sneezing.
The Germans say, "Zur Gesundheiil" The English
say, "God bless you!" The French say, "A vos
If some one sneezes after you have made a
statement, it places the seal of truth upon it and
the statement may not be doubted.
According to mythology Prometheus made an
artificial man, and the first sign of life he gave
was to sneeze. It was through the nostril that
life entered into his body.
In the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great,
78 SIGNS, OMENS; AND SUPERSTITIONS
there was an epidemic of sneezing, and many
of the afflicted died. The pope thereupon de-
clared that a certain prayer should be uttered
every time a person sneezed, to avert the calam-
To sneeze three times in rapid succession is
considered a good omen.
Physiologically considered in the light of mod-
ern science, sneezing is bad, as it spreads the
germs of many diseases by spraying them into
the air. One should always sneeze into a hand-
In ancient times spitting was considered as
having the virtue of averting witchcraft, and
even in our time many superstitions cling to the
Spit was considered as a charm against all
kinds of fascination. Theocritus says:
"Thrice on my breast I spit to guard me safe
from fascinating charms.' '
Superstitious nurses will spit on their children
to keep them from harm.
Alluding to this custom an ancient writer says:
"His lips are wet with lustral spittle, thus
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 79
They think to make the gods propitious."
Bruisers and boxers before attacking their ad-
versary, spit on their hands to insure success.
Boys, when making a pledge or asserting a thing
to be "honor bright," often spit on the ground to
give emphasis to their good faith.
Coal miners in England when they form a
union for any purpose, sit in a circle and spit on a
stone, by way of cementing their friendship and
Devout people often spit at the mention of the
name of his satanic majesty, in an effort to keep
away evil influences.
Mohammedans are said to spit at the mention
of the name of Jesus.
To spit on one's hands before undertaking a
piece of manual work insures a successful result.
Spitting three times into their bosoms, was con-
sidered by the Greeks as preventive of danger
when in the presence of a madman or an epileptic.
When a man hit another and felt remorse for
the blow, he spit into the hollow of his hand, and
thus freed the other from pain. This was a su-
perstition of the Middle Ages.
Spitting to avert evil influences is still resorted
80 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
to among country folks, and in some countries is
almost considered a religious act.
In Ireland it is considered unlucky to praise
a horse or other animal unless you spit on him
and say, "God save him," or other similar prayer.
If after three days, any bad luck befalls the ani-
mal, it is necessary to find the person who praised
him so that he may whisper the Lord's Prayer into
the animal's right ear.
Hucksters, peddlers, and other tradespeople,
have a habit of spitting for good luck when mak-
ing a sale. The first money they receive in the
morning is spat upon to insure good luck for the
It is customary in some parts when a rainbow
appears to make a cross on the ground and spit
on each of the four corners.
MOLES, TEETH, WARTS, ETC.
Moles may denote good or bad fortune ac-
cording to where they are found.
On the throat they are lucky; on the lower jaw,
especially of a woman, they denote the opposite.
On the back of the neck they are said to pre-
dict a hanging.
Red or black moles are considered unlucky,
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 81
but brown ones are lucky. If raised like a wart
they foretell luck.
A mole on the forehead brings good fortune,
so also one on the chin. As a rule moles de-
note coming wealth.
The hairs growing out of moles are considered
harbingers of fortune and in some countries are
carefully guarded and cultivated. In Latin coun-
tries one can see men go about with long hairs
growing out of moles on their faces. They are
careful never to shave them.
When a child loses a tooth it will hasten the
growth of the new tooth, if the old is thrown into
When a tooth is pulled it should be thrown in-
to the fire. In Switzerland it is carefully wrapped
in paper with a pinch of salt and burned.
To cure a toothache, the name of St. Apollonia
is invoked in Latin countries. She suffered mar-
tyrdom by having her teeth pulled out, and has
since been the patron saint of those who suffer
from similar pangs.
To dream of losing a tooth, foretells the death
of a friend.
If a baby's tooth first appars in the upper jaw,
it is a sign that the child will die in infancy.
82 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
If the teeth are very irregular it is a sign of
If there is a gap between the two upper middle
teeth large enough to pass a coin through, it
The Greeks believed that it was unlucky to
count one's warts as they would increase in
To charm away a wart, buy it from the pos-
sessor for a pin, and it will disappear within a
Another way to charm away a wart is to rub
it with half an apple. Tie the two halves to-
gether with a thread, and bury it at the foot of
a tree. Within a week the wart will have dis-
Spots in the nails foretell riches. If many, the
person showing them will gain a fortune. White
specks often foretell happenings without wealth.
On the thumb-nail, they indicate honors.
Among many peoples, yawning is considered a
sign of possession or obsession by an evil spirit.
When the Hindoo yawns, he snaps his thumb
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 83
and finger and repeats the name of one of his
deities. To neglect this brings misfortune.
When a Moslem yawns he puts the back of his
left hand to his mouth and says, "I seek refuge
with Allah from Satan."
There is an old belief that when one yawns
the devil may leap into the open mouth; hence
the necessity of holding a hand over the mouth.
To yawn in the midst of saying one's prayers,
is a bad omen. It is better to say the prayer
from the beginning again.
TINGLING AND ITCHING
It is a common superstition that when one's
ears tingle some one is talking about him.
Shakespeare says in "Much Ado About Noth-
ing," "What fire is in mine ears?" Beatrice de-
duces from this that a friend is talking about her.
Even the old Roman historian, Pliny, says:
"It is an opinion generally received that when
our ears do glow and tingle, there be some that
in our absence do talk of us."
The tingling of the right ear is taken to
mean that good is spoken, while, that of the left
ear is a token of the fact that evil is spoken.
84 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
"My ear tingles, some there be
That are snarling now at me."
The itching of the palm is considered an indi-
cation that the person will get some unexpected
money. If continued for any length of time, a
fortune will come to him.
The itching of the thumb or nose denotes a
visitor, sometimes an unwelcome intruder.
One of the witches in "Macbeth" says:
"By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes."
STUMBLING AND FALLING
Falling has always been associated with the
idea of evil, and its effects can only be averted
by a quick-witted remark or a muttered invoca-
When Caesar landed at Adrumetum in Africa,
it is related that he tripped and fell upon his face.
This was considered as an ill omen by his sol-
diers, but with great presence of mind he ex-
claimed: "Thus do I take possession of thee,
O Africa." Thus he changed a sign of bad to
one of good fortune.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 85
When William the Conqueror landed in Eng-
land, he fell prone upon the ground. A great cry
of despair went up from his army, but he raised
himself smilingly ancl said: "I have seized the
country with both my hands."
To fall while going upstairs is a sure sign that
the victim will not marry within a year.
The falling of a picture from the wall is uni-
versally regarded as a bad omen and frequently
foretells the death of the original of the picture
in the case of a portrait.
It is related that a well-known English arch-
bishop on entering his study one day, found his
portrait lying on the floor, the cord that held it
on the hook, having snapped. The sight so un-
nerved the prelate that he became ill, and died
The Duke of Buckingham had a similar mis-
adventure. On entering the council chamber, he
found his portrait lying at full length on the
floor. He died soon after.
A fall from a horse, besides being very incon-
venient and often painful, is supposed to bring evil
consequences. If two persons part on horseback,
and one of them falls off his mount, the two will
never meet again.
86 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
The fall of a window blind is accounted un-
lucky, but the evil can be averted by at once re-
placing it in its sockets.
The fall of a knife or fork to the floor is usu-
ally considered a good omen and foretells a vistf
from a friend; a female in the case of a knife, or
a. male in the case of a fork.
To fall downstairs is a very bad sign and
signifies loss of health or money.
To stumble in the morning on coming down-
stairs is a sign of ill luck during the day.
A horse stumbling on the highway brings bad
luck to his owner.
Stumbling at a grave is considered a bad omen.
"How oft to-night
"Have my old feet stumbled at graves !"
"For many men that stumble at the threshold
"Are well foretold that danger lurks within."
If you stumble over a stick or stone, turn back
and kick it out of the way to avert trouble.
CUTTING NAILS AND HAIR
The paring of nails has given rise to some
strange beliefs. So also has the cutting of hair.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS S7
This is natural, as the clipping away of one's body-
is in itself uncanny and apt to give rise to super-
Sailors believe that to cut the nails or hair
during a calm will provoke contrary winds. They,
therefore, only cut them in a storm.
The ancients declared that nails and hair should
not be pared or cut when in the presence of the
gods, but in the secrecy of one's home.
Among the Arabians it is considered lucky to
cut the nails and hair on Friday.
In some countries it is considered unlucky to
cut a child's nails till it is a year old. They have
to be bitten off.
In Scotland it is believed that if a child's nails
are cut before it is a year old, it will grow up to
be a thief. In other lands, it is thought the child
The Jews burn their nail parings with a piece
of wood, as a species of offering to insure good
When a woman's eyebrows meet across her
nose, it is a good sign. She will be happy whether
she marries or not.
88 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
A woman whose hair grows down over her
forehead in the shape of a peak, will never marry.
On rising in the morning, great care must be
given to the way one dresses, as accidents often
foretell trouble during the day.
Augustus Caesar put on his left sandal awry and
nearly lost his life in a mutiny. A well-known
"Augustus by an oversight
Put on his left shoe before his right;
Had like to have been slain that day
By soldiers mutinying for pay."
To put your shirt inside out is a good omen,
providing you discover it in time and change it.
If left on all day, beware of accidents.
To button your vest so that the buttons and holes
come out uneven is a good sign.
It is well to put on the stocking of your right
foot first and the shoe of your left foot.
To tear off a button while dressing is a bad sign.
It should be remedied at once before going out
of the house.
A hole in one's stocking is a good sign on
the first day, but brings bad luck on the second.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 89
To put the right shoe on the left foot or the
reverse, is a sign of coming trouble.
To rip a garment the first time you put it
on, is a bad sign.
To rend one's garments was in former days
considered a symbol of mourning.
If you meet a person wearing new clothes,
pinch him for good luck.
A proverbial saying when meeting a person
with new clothes, is, "May you have health to
wear it, strength to tear it, and money to buy
Coin given to a person wearing a new suit
will bring him good fortune as long as the clothes
To put on a suit for the first time on Monday
signifies that it will soon tear. You will have bad
luck in wearing it.
Tuesday — Beware lest the suit catch fire. Keep
out of speculation.
Wednesday — Things will go well with you.
Your speculations will succeed.
Thursday — You will always appear neat and
well dressed. You will make a good impression
and get what you are after.
Friday — Not a good day to put on new attire.
9 o SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
You will be successful only as long as the clothes
Saturday — Beware of catching cold. There is
an element of bad luck in a new suit on this day.
Sunday — Happiness and good luck will follow
him who puts on a new suit on the Sabbath.
To get out of bed with the left foot is con-
sidered a forecast of bad luck. When a person
is cross or irritable, we often say, "He got out
of bed with the wrong foot."
To put your foot on a soft carpet or rug, on
arising, foretells a successful day.
To stumble on getting up, is bad. You should
go back to bed and try it again.
To say "Good luck" on arising, will insure suc-
cess during the day.
It is considered unlucky to sing before break-
fast. You may cry before supper.
It is unlucky to relate a bad dream before break-
fast. It may come true.
To find a coin early in the morning is a sign
for you to beware lest you lose money before the
day is spent.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 91
SQUINTING, CRIPPLED AND HUNCH-
To meet a squinting or cross-eyed person on
going out in the morning is a sign of trouble. It
is well to go back a block or two and start over.
To walk with a cross-eyed person is sure to
bring bad luck.
To touch a hunchback's hump brings good
luck. Gamblers, especially, often resort to this
method to change their luck from bad to good.
To have a hunchback about the premises brings
good fortune. In former years kings used to have
a court fool who was usually a hunchback, not
only to make merriment for them, but to insure
To shake hands with a left-handed person is
often regarded as unlucky.
To touch a blind man's garment or brush past
him is a sign of ill fortune. To help a blind man
on his way, is an omen of good luck.
To be baptized by a left-handed priest is con-
To meet a priest the first thing in the morn-
ing is a bad omen. This may be averted by
throwing a pin at him.
92 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
To have a cripple tread on your toes is a very
To meet a beggar as you leave your house in
the morning, is a bad sign, and you should at once
return and start over.
To give a coin to a cripple insures good luck.
DEATH AND CORPSES
Feathers or a bird in the room of a sick person
are supposed to delay death. This idea is often re-
sorted to where it is advisable to delay the last
breadth till some absent friend arrives.
At the moment of death the doors and windows
are often opened to allow the spirit free egress.
Looking-glasses and pictures are covered as
long as the corpse is in the house, to prevent the
spirit from seeing its reflection.
In Scotland a piece of iron is thrust into all
eatables right after a death, to prevent the attrac-
tion of other spirits.
A plate of salt is put upon the breast of a new
corpse in Wales to purge out all the sins of the
Candles are lit at the head of the corpse, to
ward off evil spirits.
A watch is usually kept by the side of the body
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 93
until the funeral, to ward off evil spirits and also
Tolling of the bell is usual in most countries.
After some minutes of tolling there is a pause,
and three times three tolls for a male and twice
three for a female, is the rule.
Where bees are kept it is customary to tell the
bees that their owner is dead and that they must
remain and work for the new owner.
In Ireland a wake is the rule. Friends of the
departed meet and discuss the good points and
foibles of the dead. Refreshments are served.
THE EVIL EYE
The fear of the evil eye is very prevalent among
the Latin races, and even in this country there is
a belief that certain persons possess the "mal oc-
chio" and can bewitch by merely looking with hat-
red or envy upon another. Many charms and amu-
lets have and are still being worn to counteract
any bad effects.
A cross of jet is frequently used as an amulet
against the evil eye. It is believed that it will split
if looked upon by a person having evil intentions.
The following are a few of the many substances
used for averting the evil from this source. Skin
94 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
from a hyenna's forehead, madwort hung up in
the home; Catochites, a species of stone, worn in a
ring or about the neck; spitting on the right shoe
before putting it on; a necklace of jacinth, etc.
Sweeping a child's face with the bough of a pine
tree, is considered a very successful preventive;
so is hanging up the key of the house over a
Other means of preventing the blasting effects of
the evil eye are: Laying turf, dug from a grave,
upon the cradle of a child; laying crumbs on the
cradle; giving the child a piece of coral that was
dipped in the font in which the child was bap-
Hindoos decorate their children with a profu-
sion of jewels to antagonize the evil eye. Mo-
hammedans suspend articles from the ceiling over
the cradle for the same purpose.
In Roumania a child or grown person decorated
with red ribbons is supposed to be impervious to
this terrible influence, and hence most people wear
something scarlet " about their bodies, and even
the oxen in the field have something red tied about
If the keys of a careful housewife get rusty in
spite of her care, it means that some one is saving
money for her.
A hot cinder jumping out of the grate signifies
the coming of good fortune.
If meat shrinks while being boiled in a pot, it
is a bad sign, but if it swells, it means that pros-
perity is in store.
The first cake taken out of an oven should be
broken, not cut; otherwise all the rest of the
cakes baked that day will be soggy.
Do not sweep the dust out of the front door.
It indicates that your good luck will be swept out
If a leaf of soot hangs in the grate, it announces
the coming of a guest.
If a rooster stands upon the threshold of your
house and crows, a stranger may be expected.
If you neglect to close down the lid of your
teapot, a guest will come and have tea with you.
If your tea-kettle sings, it is a sign of content-
ment in the home.
96 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
In sweeping, beware not to sweep the dirt over
a girl's feet, as it will prevent her from marrying
If you wash your hands and face in a bowl of
water that has been used by some one else, it fore-
tells a quarrel with that other person.
Trousers made on Friday are unlucky and will
To break up your bread into crumbs at the
table is an omen of coming poverty.
To drop a coarse comb foretells a visit by a
man, — a fine-tooth-comb means a visit from a
To throw away a piece of bread is an indication
of carelessness and brings bad luck.
Mirrors have always been regarded as divine
instruments and used as objects of divination,
hence a certain amount of superstition attaches
to them. It is wonderful, indeed, that by nature's
law of reflection, one can see the image of that
which is outside of the glass, and it has been
considered Unlucky to destroy in any way that
power to reflect.
To break a looking-glass is considered unlucky,
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 97
and the person breaking one will have bad fortune
for seven years.
If the looking-glass is willfully broken and
thrown away, it has no effect upon one's fortune.
In Catholic countries a person accidentally
breaking a mirror, crosses himself and says:
"May the Saints avert ill fortune." The curse is
In the days of ancient Greece, divination was
performed by means of water and a looking-glass.
This was called catoptromancy. The mirror was
dipped into the water and a sick person was asked
to look into the glass. If his image appeared dis-
torted, he was likely to die ; if clear, he would live.
Looking-glasses are often used by fortune tel-
lers in a way similar to crystal globes. They can
tell from the nature of the images they perceive
what will be the future of the inquirer.
To break the glass over a friend's portrait is
a bad sign. It often betokens the death of the
person who is the original of the picture.
It is considered ill luck to see your face in a
mirror by candlelight.
SPILLING OF SALT
Salt has usually been considered in the light
98 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
of a sacrificial element. Greeks and Romans
mixed it with their cakes that were offered up
on the altars of their deities. It was a necessary
part of the sacrifice. Hence any accident to
the salt on a table was considered unlucky.
Among pagans salt was regarded as having re-
demptive ' power and was used when doing any
important business as a preventive of ill luck. It
was thrown on the ground with an invocation that
was supposed to ward off unfriendly spirits.
Among the Jews, it is still a mark of hospital-
ity to break bread with a stranger, and the bread
is first dipped into salt. "Sharing one's salt with
a stranger," has become synonymous with hos-
Salt has been regarded as the symbol of friend-
ship, therefore the overturning of a salt-cellar
is looked upon as the breaking of friendship.
. To spill salt at table is considered unlucky.
To change the spell, however, it is only necessary
to take a pinch of the salt and throw it over the
In Da Vinci's picture of the Last Supper, Judas
Iscariot is represented as overturning the salt. It
is evident from this that the spilling of salt was
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 99
considered a bad omen in the epoch when this pic-
ture was painted.
In some Eastern countries, the spilling of flour
is viewed with the same feeling of awe as in the
case of salt.
To put too much salt into the food when cook-
ing, is supposed to be proof that the cook is in
It is considered unlucky to accept a knife from
a friend without giving something in return. You
therefore buy the knife and avert the "cutting of
A penny is usually offered in exchange for a
knife, but among some believers, a pin is all that
To , # drop a knife on the floor, means the com-
ing of a visitor.
Knife and fork should never be crossed at the
table, as this would presage bad luck: They
should be laid side by side.
To cross knives is to invite a cross or mis-
fortune. The origin of this belief probably
lay in the disinclination to make the sign of the
ioo SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
To leave a penknife open after you are through
with it is a sign of danger and is unlucky.
To drop a knife accidentally so that the point
penetrates into the ground and it stands upright
is a sign of coming success.
To place an open knife near a sleeping child
is considered a good omen.
Candles have always had a peculiarly religious
character, and have from time immemorial been
used in the service of churches and for sacred
rites. Many queer superstitions attach to them.
In Catholic countries it is customary to bring
candles to church in honor of one's favorite saint
or of the Madonna. The size of the candle and its
decoration gave evidence of the donor's religious
Many of the saints had their own peculiar pref-
erences as to the color of the candles.
A birthday cake should have as many candles
on it as there are years in the person's age. This
will ensure another year of happiness.
When the wax of a candle forms a loop tike a
handle, it is called a "coffin handle," and portends
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 101
The dripping of tallow or wax down the side of
a candle, is called a "shroud" and foretells death
to the person towards whom it is directed.
A spark in the wick is called a "letter" and
foretells the arrival of good news.
A knot in the wick, burning with a red glow,
indicates the visit of a stranger.
A wick charred but remaining over the flame
is a sign of good luck.
To kill a moth hovering about a candle is a
harbinger of good luck.
To walk under a ladder when it is leaning
against a wall, is a sign of bad luck.
To pass under a ladder that is hung horizon-
tally does not influence your luck for good or
To climb a ladder with an odd number of
rungs is a good sign and leads to success.
To be on a ladder with a pretty girl is a good
sign and foretells matrimony.
To fall from a ladder is an omen of ill luck
and foretells a loss of money.
THE MYSTERY OF NUMBERS
That there is virtue in numbers and that every
person is under the influence of certain numbers
was taught as far back as the days of Pythagoras,
and a vast collection of books have been written
concerning this phase of superstition.
Any clairvoyant to whom you may go to have
fortune will ask you on what day of the month
your fortune told will ask you on what day of the
month you were born and in what year. From this
she will tell you whether to expect good or evil
fortune in the coming year. The basis for these
calculations has been handed down from very
According to astrologers, every letter in one's
name corresponds to a number, so that if you
understand how to calculate the numerical value
of your name you can foretell your future.
The planets have numbers, and the 'influence they
exert on you depends in how far their numbers
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 103
correspond with those in your name and dates of
important events in your life.
In horse racing, the names of the horses, taken
according to their numerical value, often predict
the result of the race.
Every nation had its lucky and unlucky num-
bers that occur in their mythology and history.
The Greeks believed in the sacredness of the num-
ber nine. They had nine muses, nine principal
deities, nine oracles, etc.
The Romans believed in the mystic three, the
Egyptians in twelve, etc.
The Jews revered the number seven, and its re-
currence throughout the Bible is remarkable : Seven
days of creation, seven lean years, seven fat years,
seven stars, seven times bathing in the Jordan,
seven years followed by a year of jubilee, etc.
This number, according to Kabala was obtained
by adding the letters of Man and God together.
Thirteen, as we know, has been regarded by
Christians as a very unlucky number on account
of the events following the Last Supper.
Divination by numbers is a favorite pastime
and leads to some remarkable results. Many
historical events have been prophesied by this
method. Thus Napoleon III was born in 1808 and
104 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
assumed the empire in 1852. Add 1-8-0-8 to 1852
and you have 1869, which foretold the end of the
empire about that time.
The French Revolution occurred in 1789; add
this date to the sum of its numbers and you have
1814, which foretells the end of Napoleon's reign.
The dates of other personalities can be worked
out the same way and the result is often remark-
Kabala, or the occult science of the Jews of the
Middle Ages, depended almost entirely upon the
mystic powers of numbers.
Many problems in modern mathematics depend
on the mystic number nine and both nine and
seven are used by fortune tellers in divining the
LOTTERY NUMBERS AND USAGES
Lotteries are practically a thing of the past in
America, but there was a time when they flour-
ished and when everybody from the wage earner
to the millionaire wagered his pile on some lucky
number. In the South the fever raged particu-
larly strong, and the Louisiana Lottery and the
Dismal Swamp Lottery counted their victims by
the million. Policy, too, was very prevalent, and is
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 105
still being conducted secretly in many parts of the
country. Both lottery and policy were similar
in that a certain price was paid for a ticket or
a paper with numbers. On stated occasions num-
bers were drawn out of a wheel and these were
announced. The holder of the lucky number won
an amount that differed according to the occasion.
A man's age, or that of his wife or children,
was frequently taken as the number. Some men
added the figures in the date, month, etc.
Dreams are considered particularly efficacious
in playing policy. Most dream books give policy
numbers coinciding with every possible dream,
and these when played are supposed to make a win-
Among the numbers often taken are the date
of the year, or the date of an important event.
The numbers on a freight car have been known
to bring fortunate results.
In the case of a murder committed in a com-
munity, certain numbers are supposed to have a
peculiar significance and bring luck.
In the South many negroes make a comfortable
living by interpreting dreams, signs and omens
and telling the proper numbers they signify for
the playing of policy.
106 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
In buying several lottery tickets, it is not lucky
to have them all follow each other consecutively.
An interval should separate them.
Odd numbers are more apt to bring prizes than
even numbers. Numbers ending in three, nine,
twelve or seven are the most likely to strike luck.
A number given you by a cripple is sure to be
successful, but that given by a cross-eyed man or
;woman is bound to lose.
PREDICTIONS OF WEALTH
To have lots of hair on your arms and ringers
is a sign of coming wealth.
When you throw a lump of sugar into your cof-
fee or tea, the number of bubbles that arise are
an indication of your future wealth.
Many moles over your body indicate that you
will be wealthy.
To be born with a caul indicates that you will
have luck and amass wealth.
A birthmark in the middle of the back indi-
cates a wealthy marriage.
To be born during an eclipse, denotes hardship
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 107
DIVINATION BY LETTERS
The most celebrated arrangement or letters by
which fortunes were -told or cures effected was
the ABRACADABRA. It is attributed to Sere-
nus, a celebrated physician of the second century.
It is often written so that reading from the apex
like an inverted pyramid up to the right side, the
same word will be spelled as at the top. Thus:
ABR A CA
A B R A
The belief in the wonderful powers of this
word are well-nigh universal. By writing it on
a parchment and hanging it about the neck of a
sick person, it would staunch blood, heal dis-
orders, cure toothache, etc.
The Jews used a similar word, Abracalam,
108 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
to cure disorders. In the Middle Ages the word,
Anamazaptas, if whispered into a man's ear, was
supposed to cure epilepsy.
The word "Bedooh" inscribed on rings and
charms or on helmets or sabres is supposed to
bring good luck. It comes from an Arab word
which means "he has walked well."
The word "Osy" was used as a charm against
serpents, and caused them to lie still as the dead.
Pythagoras considered the letter Y a symbol of
life, and used it in his divinations.
Anagrams are often used to tell fortunes and
to decide the career of a person. Thus Eleanor
Davies, a well-known English woman and the
wife of a poet, became a prophetess because she
found that the letters of her name could be trans-
posed to read, "Reveal O Daniel."
In many countries, charms worn about the neck
and engraved with mystic letters have the power
to keep away evil and cure disease.
DIVINATION BY BOOKS
In ancient Greece, when people wanted counsel
on important matters, they opened a scroll of
Homer at random and noted the lines covered
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 109
by the thumb. At the present time the Bible is
the book usually employed for that purpose.
If in distress, open the Bible and put your index
finger on the page at random. The text will tell
you what to do. If the words have no apparent
bearing on the question, you should consider it an
To decide Yes or No in any doubtful matter,
open the Bible and note the first word on the left-
hand page. If it has an even number of letters,
the answer is No; if an odd number of letters,
the answer is Yes.
If things have gone wrong with you, open the
Bible and say:
"Mark and Matthew, Luke and John,
Counsel, that I may get on."
Then retire and inspiration will come in your
A singular mode of divination for girls who
desire to know their fate is described in an old
book, as follows:
"When you go to bed place under your pillow
a prayer book opened at the part of the matri-
monial service which begins, With this ring I
thee wed,' etc." Place a key on it, a ring, a
flower, a sprig of willow, a small heart-shaped
no SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
cake, a crust of bread and a pack of playing cards.
Wrap these up in a thin handkerchief and, on
getting into bed, cross your thumbs and say:
'Luna, every woman's friend,
To me thy goodness condescend;
Let me this night in visions see
Emblems of my destiny/ "
On New Year's Day a Bible is laid on the table,
in some parts of England, and each member of the
family opens it at random and from the contents
of the two open pages reads his destiny for the
The last chapter of the Book of Proverbs con-
tains thirty-one verses, each of which is supposed
to have reference to one day of a month. By con-
sulting these for the day of the month on which
you were born, you will have an indication as
to which kind of occupation you will be most suc-
cessful in. Thus, the twenty- fourth verse speaks
of "fine linen," which indicates that the person born
on that day will be successful as a manufacturer
or seller of linen.
Precious stones are supposed in all countries
to have a special province in inducing fortunate
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS in
or unlucky occurrences. The proper stone is
chosen according to the month of one's birth, each
month being governed by a different gem.
The following is the list of birth stones accord-
ing to the generally accepted belief :
In the dictionary of "Phrase and Fable," we
find a different arrangement based on astrological
lore. It is as follows: —
Sign of Zodiac
Aries, the ram,
Taurus, the bull,
Gemini, the twins,
Cancer, the crab,
Ii2 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
Sign of Zodiac
Leo, the virgin,
Libra, the balance,
Scorpio, the scorpion,
Capricorn, the goat,
Pisces, the fishes,
A ring presented to a person with his or her
birthstone is sure to bring good fortune.
One's birthstone in a charm or locket, worn
about the neck, will bring luck in business or spec-
There has always been a disposition to connect
one's personality with colors. People are supposed
not only to have a fortunate number but a lucky
hue as well. Planets have a certain hue, and a per-
son's color chart agrees with that of his star.
Modern scientific research has proved the im-
portance of color in a curative sense. No matter
whether your native color is red or blue, it is a
fact that the color of your wall paper may have a
beneficial or harmful effect on you if you are ill.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 113
Color undoubtedly has an influence on mental con-
Infusoria and the lower forms of life develop
faster under one kind of color than under another,
red and yellow being most favorable. Flies, ants
and other insects die under the effect of blue or
violet light. Why then should color not also have
its influence on man?
Insane people have been cured by placing them
in a room that was flooded with light of a certain
color that corresponded with their aura. Blue light
was thought particularly efficacious for melan-
The following beliefs are current in regard to
Red governs love, affection or lust.
Scarlet rules emotion and anger.
Crimson is the color of animal passion.
Bright red gives courage and confidence.
Orange is the color of simplicity or ignorance.
Brown is the hue of worldly wisdom.
Yellow, of jealousy and silliness.
In the Bible, sin is supposed to be scarlet in
color, hence that color is to be avoided by virtuous
ii4 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
The devil, as the incarnation of sin, is always
represented as dressed in scarlet.
Yellow and gold, according to some philosophers,
correspond to the intellectual, red to the sensual,
and blue to the spiritual, moral and religious na-
ture of man.
White is the color of innocence, hence brides
dress in white.
Black is the color of mourning in European
and American nations, but white is the mourning
hue in oriental countries.
Purple was considered the color of royalty in
ancient days, probably on account of its former
scarcity and expensiveness. It is also used for
second mourning, as being a compromise between
black and gay colors.
There is a belief that every jealous person had
green eyes. This idea no doubt was formed by the
fact that some people's eyes become phosphorescent
under great emotion.
Quaking grass, also called maidenhair, if
brought into the house brings bad luck.
If mandrake is turned up in one's garden it
should be burnt at once. Many strange beliefs
centre about this root. Some believe it will cause
blindness if looked at too long.
To pick flowers before they are full blown, is
said to cause a stye.
March marigolds will cause drinking habits
if looked at too long.
If poppies are held to the eyes, it is believed
they will blind one.
Primroses should not be brought into a house
where there are laying hens, or the chickens will
not hatch out.
BIRD AND INSECT SUPERSTITIONS
Owls are considered unlucky birds. Their
hoarse and repellent voice is a bad omen and
means coming disaster.
Chaucer says: "The owl brings tidings of
History tells that an owl once flew into the city
of Rome and as a result the place was purified
and sacrifices offered to propitiate the gods and
Before the death of the Roman emperor, Anto-
ninus, an owl was observed to sit over his chamber
The Actian War was foretold by owls flying
into the Temple of Concord in Rome.
In the Middle Ages the screeching of owls was
supposed to foretell plague or other calamities.
Ravens were considered equally unlucky. To
have a raven fly into one's bedroom foretold dis-
aster. The celebrated poem by Poe, "The Raven,"
has this belief for its motive.
Robins are considered lucky birds and it is
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 117
bad to kill one. The farmers believe that they
will avert poor crops.
The high esteem in which the robin is held
probably originated from the story of the "Babes
in the Wood" who were covered up with leaves
by the robin redbreasts after they were left to
starve by their cruel guardian.
The cuckoo has long been considered as a
bird of bad omen, if it enters one's home; but to
hear a cuckoo cry in the woods is a good sign.
Boys take their money out of their pockets and
spit on it for luck when they hear a cuckoo cry.
It is a bad sign not to have any money in your
pocket when you hear the cuckoo's first cry in
A white bird or a crow flying against a win-
dow by night, foretells a death in the house with-
in a year.
A robin is a bringer of good luck if it flies into
Magpies have different meanings according to
the number that fly about. "One for sorrow, two
for mirth, three for a wedding, four for a birth,
five for silver, six for gold, seven a secret that
dare not be told. ,,
n8 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
To avert the evil influence of magpies, make a
cross with the foot for every one in sight.
It is unlucky to look into an owl's nest.
It is a bad omen to kill a swallow or a wren or
take their eggs.
Martins and swallows are God's teachers and
scholars and must not be annoyed.
It is unlucky to kill a spider. If you wish to
thrive, let the spider stay alive.
A spider's web, encountered on the road should
not be disturbed.
A little red ant, if it crawls into the pocket,
Crickets are considered harbingers of luck;
but in some countries the contrary holds good.
To kill a red ant, brings rain.
Bees swarming on a house means that some one
will die there.
If you see a black snail, throw it over your head
To kill a toad will make the bees swarm.
When putting bees into a new hive, one must
knock three times on top of the old hive and tell
them; otherwise they will sting you.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 119
If any one dies in a house where bees are kept,
they must be told, otherwise they will stop gather-
ing honey and die too.
In some country hives are turned around when
a member of the family dies, otherwise the bees
will also die.
Bees are supposed to have a religious nature
and to be subject to the emotions of their owners.
In Yorkshire there is a custom of watching the
hives on Christmas Eve. The people profess to be
able to tell by the humming noise the bees make
whether the holiday is to be a joyful one or not.
Bees have often been used for divination and
the size of the swarm and the general behavior of
the bees prophesies good or bad crops.
If a hive of bees dies out, it is a sign of a com-
ing bad harvest and the farmer looks for another
place to ply his profession.
To be stung by a bee, if not followed by a
swelling, is a sign of coming fortune.
If three bees alight upon you at one time, it is
a sign that your plans will meet with success.
The following are believed to foretell death:
Rats leaving a house; a hare or white rabbit
crossing your path; a cow lowing three times in
your face; a shrewmouse running over your foot.
It is unlucky to keep a kitten born in May. It
should be drowned, as a May cat is supposed to
suck a child's breath.
Goslings hatched in May bring no luck to the
It is unlucky to bid a price for an animal that
is not for sale. The animal is apt to die within a
To covet another's beast will bring you bad luck.
If a pig is killed while the moon is waning,
it will be unprofitable and the bacon will shrink
in the pot.
A gray horse brings good luck. Spit on the
little finger and rub it on the horse, and money
will come to you.
If you see a young spring lamb with the head
towards you, it means good fortune.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 121
It foretells bad luck if rats gnaw one's clothing.
It is unlucky to kill a cricket. These insects
were esteemed by the ancients as a symbol of hos-
pitality. Their singing was often used to fore-
tell good or bad events.
A hare crossing the path of a traveller is a
sign of bad fortune. A white hare, however, is
regarded as a good sign.
A pig appearing to a traveller is a good sign.
If a sow be accompanied by a litter of pigs, it
denotes a successful trip.
The tail of a lizard is considered a lucky mas-
cot in France, just as is the hind leg of a rabbit
in this country.
To meet a white horse is considered unlucky
unless the person spits at it to avert trouble.
To meet a white horse indicates that you will
soon see a red-haired girl.
Rooks are believed to foretell death by leaving
the house near which they have built their nests.
Killing a spider is considered unlucky. Small
spiders, called "money-spinners," indicate good
luck, and their webs are not to be destroyed.
If black ants appear in a house it is a sign of
good luck, but red ants bring misfortune.
122 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
To meet a goat unexpectedly is bad luck; to
meet a sheep is a good sign.
HOWLING OF DOGS
The howling of dogs has always been consid-
ered a sign of coming disaster. Dogs are sup-
posed to have a peculiar sense of coming trouble.
In case of sickness, a dog is supposed to foretell
An old writer says: "As odd and unaccount-
able as it may seem, dogs scent death even before
it seizes a person.
In the "Odyssey/' the dogs of Eumaeus are de-
scribed as terrified at the sight of Minerva though
she was invisible to human eyes.
The howling of dogs is believed to presage
death, especially in houses where some one is
When dogs tremble and wallow upon the earth
it is a sign of wind and storm.
Horses and cattle are often supposed to have
this trait in common with dogs. Their keen sense
of smell, or perhaps some sense which mortals do
not possess, enables them to discover illness and
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 123
There are conflicting beliefs regarding the in-
fluence of black cats. Some consider them a sure
sign of good luck, others regard them with dread
A black cat without a single white hair is
lucky, particularly if it comes to you unsolicited.
If you start out to undertake any new work or
to hunt and a black cat crosses your path, you will
be very lucky in your undertaking.
If you try to coax a black cat to come and he
runs away, you will be disappointed in your re-
To kill a black cat is very unlucky, and means
misfortune for a year.
Among Egyptians, cats were regarded with re-
ligious awe. They were mummified and buried in
the graves with human beings.
Witches had a fondness for black cats, and used
them in their divinations. In soothsaying, cats
have always played an important role.
The brain of a black cat was considered an
important ingredient in the recipes and prescrip-
tions of the witches in the Middle Ages.
The meowing of a black cat at midnight is a
bad omen, and foretells a death.
To walk under a rainbow is supposed to be un-
lucky, as the light of a rainbow, while good in
itself, harms the one it shines on.
To be out in a sunshower is good luck, and
whatever you venture in that hour will be success-
Thunder and lightning are both lucky and un-
lucky according to the direction from which they
An even number of thunder reports in quick
succession have no effect, but an uneven number
will bring luck.
The ancients considered thunder as an indica-
tion that Jove was angry.
Thunder from a cloudless sky, is considered an
indication of luck.
To see a new moon for the first time after a
change on the right-hand side or directly in front
of you betokens good luck, but to see it behind
you on your left, is a bad omen.
To begin a journey or other important work in
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 125
the last quarter of the moon is bad, and the ven-
ture will be a failure.
To see the new moon through a window for the
first time, indicates bad luck.
The new moon seen over the right shoulder
brings good fortune, over the left shoulder means
failure, and straight ahead of you denotes good
luck till the end of the season.
The Friday on which the new moon first appears
is a bad day and Sunday is equally unfavorable
for a full moon.
Red ants swarming through the earth, indicate
coming of rain.
If it rains on St. Swithin's Day, it will rain for
forty days more.
If the hedgehog emerges from his hole on
Michaelmas and sees his shadow, prepare for
thirty days more of winter.
WEATHER SIGNS AND PORTENTS
Small fleecy clouds of "curdled" appearance, in-
dicate neither long wet nor long dry. Long
streaky clouds, indicate fair weather.
Thick bands of clouds across the west, indicate
A "weather breeder" is a fine, warm day out
126 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
of season and foretells bad weather in the near
Streaks of light radiating out of clouds behind
the sun foretell rain. The sun is said to be suck-
ing up moisture.
"The moon on her back holds water in her lap."
A halo around the moon indicates rain. The
bigger the wheel, the nearer the moisture.
If the evening star is in front of the moon,
look out for rain.
When a guinea fowl or peacock calls, prepare
The call of the green woodpecker is a sign of
Rooks gathering in large numbers and flying
in a circle, foretell rain.
If it rains on Friday, it will surely rain on the
Shooting of corns or the aching of an old
wound foretell rain.
If during the harvest a rake is carried with its
teeth up, it will be a wet harvest.
When the cat scratches the leg of the table,
sneezes, draws her paw over her forehead in
washing her face or frisks about the house, it is
a sure sign of rain.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 127
The following are indications of rain: When
crickets chirp louder than usually, when a rooster
flies on the gate and crows, when a dog eats grass,
and when snails are abundant.
"Wind in the east is good neither for man or
Wind in the west suits everybody best/'
When the robins sing high in the tree, the
weather will be fine, but if they sing low down, it
will rain soon.
Sea gulls on land bring rain.
"Red sky at night, shepherd's delight.
Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning."
Early mist indicates a fine day.
If ice will bear a man before Christmas, it
will not bear a mouse afterwards.
If the sun shines through the apple trees on
Christmas, it foretells a fine crop of apples.
"If in February there be no rain,
The hay won't prosper nor the grain."
All other months of the year curse a fine Feb-
If a cat lies in the sun in February, she will
creep under the grate in March.
"When the oak comes before the ash, summer
will be dry and mash."
128 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
"Rain on Good Friday and Easter Day, brings
lots of grass but little hay."
Cold May, short hay! Leaky June, plenty of
If it rains on St. S within' s Day, the apples are
christened and the early kind may be picked.
Warm October means a cold February.
Snow that lingers will bring more snow.
COMETS AND METEORS
That the sudden appearance of a big star with
a long tail should cause fear and apprehension is
but natural. Primitive man, in fact until a few
decades ago, saw in the fiery celestial visitor a
sure omen of disaster. In religious countries in
the Middle Ages, the appearance of a comet was
associated with the second coming of Christ.
In the year 1712, Whiston, a clergyman and
astronomer, predicted the appearance of a comet
and stated that the world would be destroyed by
fire a few days thereafter. The comet appeared
punctually according to his calculations, and the
inhabitants of England began to prepare for the
end of the world. People got into boats believ-
ing that the water was the safest place. Divine
service was held in all churches, and rich men
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 129
parted with their wealth. The comet left with-
out having accomplished any damage.
Comets have often been regarded as the pre-
cursor of war and famine and nearly every big
war occurred soon after the appearance of a
Although we know now that comets are harm-
less things, and rarely trouble the earth, super-
stition still clings to them.
Special prayers were instituted by various popes
to nullify the evil a comet might do. In Catholic
countries these are still used as a preventive of
It is considered unlucky to engage in any new
business during the continuation of a comet in the
Children born during a comet will have a difficult
time of it, and are subject to sudden death.
Shooting stars or meteors have also been the
subject of many strange beliefs. When a shoot-
ing star flashes across the sky, wish for money,
and you will be sure to get it.
A sick person, seeing a shooting star, will re-
cover within a month.
If you set out on a voyage at night and see a
shooting star, your trip will be successful.
i 3 o SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
Lovers seeing shooting stars and wishing for
health, wealth or happiness, will have their wish
SUPERSTITIONS OF KINGS
King Harold of England considered Saturday
his lucky day.
According to Celtic chronicles, each king of
Scotland had some favorite day, and. was forbid-
den by the astrologers of his reign from doing
certain things on designated days.
The kings of Ireland were not allowed to have
the sun fall on their beds at Tara Castle.
The King of Munster was forbidden to have a
feast at Killarney from Monday to the end of the
The King of Connaught believed it ill luck to
wear a speckled garment or to ride a speckled
The King of Ulster would not go to certain
parts of his kingdom during March for fear of
October 14th was supposed to be a lucky day
for the kings of England.
132 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
The sixth of April was a lucky day for Alexan-
der the Great. On that day he conquered Darius
and won a great sea battle.
The sixth of April was also lucky for Alexan-
der's father, Phillip of Macedon. On that day he
captured Potidaea, his general overthrew the II-
lyrians, and his horse won at the Olympian
The month of January has been unlucky for
kings. Charles I was beheaded that month.
Napoleon III and King Victor Emmanuel of Italy
died in January.
King Louis XVI of France found the 21st an
important day. On April 21st, 1770, he was
married, and every great event of his reign oc-
curred on that day. On January 21st, 1793, he
Cromwell considered the 3rd of September as
his lucky day. He gained several great victories
on that date.
The Duke of Monmouth was told by a fortune-
teller that if he survived St. S within' s Day he
would be a great man. He died on that day.
Napoleon Bonaparte considered Friday his un-
lucky day and Monday his fortunate day.
Henry IV of. France considered Friday lucky
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 133
and preferred to undertake important things on
The late Emperor of Austria was superstitious
and attributed all his family troubles to a curse
that was launched against him by a countess who
believed herself injured by him.
The Hohenzollern family, of which the kaiser
is the most talked-of member, have their pet
superstitions, one of them being that the appari-
tion of a woman in white betokens the death of
one of the family.
CARD PLAYERS' SUPERSTITIONS
Luck plays such an important part with gam-
blers and card players that it is not surprising
they have a multitude of beliefs and superstitions.
Where every move is connected with blind chance
and skill is entirely secondary, every detail of the
game is watched for some sign of import or some
omen that will bring success. Here are some of
the many beliefs that are current in English-
To play cards on a table without a cover is
A green cover is the most fortunate to play on.
To lend money to an adversary with which to
134 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
play is unlucky. To borrow money during a game
In Monte Carlo and other gambling places there
is a belief that after a suicide of an unlucky player,
all those playing against the bank will win. When
the news of a suicide becomes known, therefore,
the card rooms at once fill with eager players.
If you wish a friend to win at cards, stick a
pin in the lapel of his coat.
To drop a card on the floor during a game is
a bad sign, and means the loss of that game.
Singing, while playing, is a sign that your side
To have another person look over your shoul-
der while playing, or put his foot on the rung of
your chair, is a forerunner of bad luck.
To play at the same table with a cross-eyed
man is a sign that you will lose.
To lose your temper or get into a passion over
the game is a sign of a loss.
The four of clubs is an unlucky card to get. It
is called the devil's bedstead.
It helps your luck to keep the chips carefully
stacked up before you.
Most players have their own private supersti-
tions based on past experiences. A certain hand
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 135
always foretells good luck, while the cards com-
ing in a certain order may mean the reverse.
Winning the first game often means that you
will win the third. Holding your cards in a
certain way brings success.
Playing on certain days is unlucky for some,
lucky for others. To play before 6 P. M. on
Fridays is unlucky.
Turning one's chair around three times is
often resorted to to change one's luck.
Playing with a fresh deck of cards is another
way of forcing the goddess of fortune to be
Most players have a lucky card which they
touch with the index finger before sitting down
to play. This insures good fortune.
Actors may be counted among the most super-
stitious people in the world. Their success de-
pends upon so many unforeseen contingencies,
and so many elements enter into their enter-
prises, that they look with awe and misgiving
upon every trivial incident. In different coun-
tries they have different rites and beliefs, but the
136 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
following seem to be the most prevalent in Eng-
Whistling in a theatre is a sign of very bad luck,
and there is no offense that is more quickly
frowned upon by the manager. It was formerly
difficult for a vaudeville artist who made a
specialty of whistling in his act to get an engage-
It is considered bad luck to change the costume
in which an actor first made his success in a
piece. In cases of a long run the garment is often
worn until it becomes threadbare.
The witches' song in Macbeth is believed to
have an uncanny power for evil, and many actors
cannot be induced to play in that tragedy.
To repeat the last lines of a play at rehearsals
is considered an ill omen.
The pictures of an ostrich or peacock are con-
To turn the handle of the wrong door in seeking
a manager or play-broker is considered very un-
lucky. To ward against failure, the applicant
must return home and start out afresh next day.
Yellow is an unlucky color for an actor. The
color of one's costume often creates a loss of
memory while learning a part.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 137
The looping of a drop curtain is a sure fore-
runner of evil.
Wigs bring luck, and many an actor wears one
although his part does not call for it.
If an actor's shoes squeak on making his en-
trance it is a sign that he will have the applause
of the audience.
If an actor kicks off his shoes and they alight
on their soles, it is a good omen; but if they fall
on their sides, it is a bad sign.
Cats are considered very lucky by actors, and to
have a cat run across the stage during a rehearsal
is considered very lucky. It brings bad luck to
kick a cat.
To have a person look over the actor's shoulder
while he is making up and looking at himself in
the glass is unlucky.
To stumble over anything in making an en-
trance is bad, and will cause him to fail in his
If his costume catches in the scenery as he enters
he must go back and make a new entrance or
else have bad luck during the act.
The peep-hole through which the actor looks
out at the audience is usually in the centre, as
either side may bring bad luck,
138 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
Managers have their pet superstitions as well
To accept a play that has not been refused by
at least one manager is considered by some as a
sign of failure.
If the first purchaser of seats for a performance
is an old man or old woman it means that the
play will have a long run. A young person means
To receive a torn bank note for a ticket is a
bad sign for the box office man, and means a loss
of position. A big bill for which he must make
change is a good omen.
If an usher seats a person in seat thirteen or a
multiple thereof, he will have bad luck.
An usher considers it bad luck to have a lady
tip him for a program, but a gentleman's tip
insures good luck.
The first tip of the season is briskly rubbed on
the leg of the usher's trousers and then kept in
his pocket as a lucky piece.
To receive a smile from an actor over the
footlights is a good omen.
A woman fainting in a theatre is considered a
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 139
bad sign and means that the play will come to a
A death in a playhouse during a performance
is a certain hoodoo, and usually ends in an unex-
pected termination of the run of the play.
Travelling men, whose lives are a constant
struggle after orders, are apt to consider trifles as
an index of coming fortune, or the reverse, and
many are their peculiar beliefs.
When, on starting out, a drummer finds he
has forgotten his order book, he will take no
orders till it is sent after him.
A necktie worn when the first order is taken
is often worn till the end of the trip, as it brings
good luck. With some, the suit takes the place
of the tie.
A salesman often goes into a stranger's store
and tries to sell a bill before tackling his own
regular customer. He believes that if he is turned
down by one, he will be sure to sell the right
A flock of sheep seen on starting out is a good
sign. A pig or drove of pigs is even better.
140 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
If no order has been taken for several days, the
conscientious traveller will rest up for a day, take
a bath and change his clothes for a change of
Muttering some incantation or wish while a
difficult customer is making up his mind is often
A lucky pocket-piece twirled in the left hand is
supposed to insure an order where the customer
A horseshoe carried in the bottom of a sample
trunk is supposed to insure success during the
DRESSMAKERS AND SEAMSTRESSES
Seamstresses have a code of beliefs of their
own, many of which are curious.
To prick a finger and draw blood while sewing
a bride's dress bodes ill for the bride's married
life. To stain the dress with blood means an
early death for the wearer.
To try on a bride's dress by the seamstress and
wear it for an hour before the bride wears it
betokens an engagement for the seamstress.
To lose a thimble while making a bride's dress
means exceptionally good luck for the bride.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 141
To be employed to make a mourning outfit for
a young widow betokens an early marriage for the
To turn the material on the wrong siae and
sew it thus by mistake so that the dress will
have to be ripped and resewn means good luck
for the wearer.
To drop your scissors on the floor means a
visitor who will bring welcome news. Should
the scissors break, it means a keen disappoint-
To sew with the wrong colored silk or thread
by mistake is a sign of bad luck for the wearer
unless the work is ripped and sewn over.
To make an all white dress is always produc-
tive of luck.
A spot of dirt or oil on a new dress where it
will show means disappointment for the wearer.
It was formerly considered unlucky for a bride
to help sew her own wedding dress.
The sea is one of the greatest marvels of
creation, and perhaps the most mysterious. It is
full of dangers, and from time immemorial has
been the subject of many superstitions. It is
142 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
natural that sailors should attach a meaning to
everything that promises a safe voyage.
The sea is supposed to be filled with monsters
that cause no end of trouble if they are not pro-
pitiated by some rite. A fleet on the sea drives
away these monsters.
A sailing vessel is supposed to sail faster when
running from an enemy than otherwise.
By speaking to his sailing vessel as he would
to a horse, many an old salt believes he gets greater
A kingfisher hanged by a nail to the mast is
used to prophesy the direction of the wind.
When a great auk, an aquatic bird, appears,
sailors believe they will have a speedy voyage.
If the bird settles on deck it is a good omen.
Seeing three magpies predicts a successful voyj-
age. One magpie, however, is a sign of bad
A seal is considered a lucky omen, and it is
wicked to kill one.
An albatross brings good luck and creates
favorable winds. To kill an albatross is an omen
of very bad luck. This is portrayed in the
"Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 143
A dove alighting on a ship is a sign of favor-
Dolphins and porpoises playing about a ship
presage a storm.
An eight-arm cuttlefish is regarded by sailors
as a bad omen.
Barnacles that cling to a ship are believed to
change into birds after the vessel has been on a
cruise for six months.
French sailors dread the nocturnal visits of a
sort of mischievous ~?uck or sprite who is sup-
posed to play pranks while they sleep.
An appeal to the Virgin is supposed by Latin
sailors to calm a storm at sea.
Sailing on Friday is considered bad luck.
Steamers do not now fear this day as much as
When a Chinese junk is ready to go to sea,
priests are invited to go on board to chant a
prayer and offer a sacrifice to Tien How, the
god of the sea. Gongs and drums are beaten.
A shark following a ship is looked upon as a
sure sign of death of one of the passengers or
When a storm arises and a vessel is in danger
it is supposed that a sinful person is on board
144 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
and causes the trouble. This belief grew out of the
story of Jonah.
Most sailors make the sign of the cross before
launching a boat in an angry sea.
Christening new ships is a relic of an ancient
rite when wine was offered to Neptune as a pro-
pitiatory sacrifice to insure his favor.
The custom of blessing a ship is an old one and
is supposed to keep a ship from harm.
Carrying dead bodies on shipboard is regarded
with superstitious dread by sailors, and those
that die during a voyage are usually buried at
During oyster dredging, fishermen often keep
up a monotonous chant to charm the oysters into
their net. This has given rise to the following
verse, reprinted from an old book on fisher-
"The herring loves the merry moonlight,
The mackerel loves the wind;
But the oyster loves the dredger's song,
For he comes of gentle kind."
Norwegian fishermen perform a sort of sacred
rite before going on the hunt for herring. They
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 145
drink a "white lug," a sort of toddy. They be-
lieve it insures a big catch.
In many countries fishermen are afraid to as-
sist a drowning man for fear that the water
sprite will be offended and drive the fish from
Burmese fishermen offer fruit and rice to "Nat,"
the spirit of the water, otherwise he will scare
away the fish.
Many fishermen believe that spitting on the
bait before casting the hook will make the catch
Portuguese fishermen during a storm attach
an image of St. Anthony to the mast and pray to
it. If that don't help, they curse and beat the
image to make it behave and do their behests.
It is considered lucky to throw the first fish
caught back into the water to induce other fish to
come to the hook.
Men who follow the races and make their
living on the turf are in the same category as
card players and gamblers. Their winnings de-
pend exclusively on chance, and it is easy to
understand how they invest every occurrence with
146 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
some mysterious meaning and believe that certain
signs or omens will bring good or bad luck. Some
of their superstitions are childish, but their belief
in them often brings the desired results.
On the way to the races, if a turfman sees a
name like that of the horse that is run that day,
he takes it for an omen that the horse will win.
The initials of names on signboards or the
headlines in the paper he is reading are all made
to do service in spelling the name of the horse
that is to be victorious.
To meet a funeral on the way to the track is
a bad omen, although an empty hearse denotes
To dream of a horse that is entered for a race
is lucky, but it will not win the first time it is
run. It is sure to win the second time, how-
ever, and it is safe to bet on it then.
To meet a cross-eyed man on the way to the
track is very bad, but to meet a cross-eyed woman
is lucky. A cross-eyed negro foretells the best
kind of luck.
To meet a black cat brings bad luck, while
a white cat is excellent. To be followed by a
strange dog is a good sign. To see a piebald
horse means success.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 147
To give alms to a blind beggar brings good luck
and to touch the hump of a hunchback man is a
sure sign of success.
When the saddle girth of a horse gets loose and
the jockey is obliged to get off and tighten it, it
is a sure bet that the horse will win.
Money that is won should be carried loose in
the pocket, and not in a purse or wallet. It will
then pave the way for more.
To find money on the track is a bad thing.
It should be given away in charity.
Baseball players have a curious code of beliefs,
which differ with nearly every team. They have
their mascots, that are supposed to bring them
good luck, and stand in awe of the "jinx" that
often defeats their best plans.
When a team runs behind in its score a change
of pitcher or catcher often retrieves their chances.
It is unlucky to play with a bat that is split,
even if the damage is slight. A new bat must
If on the way to the game any name is encoun-
tered that suggests the name of one of the teams,
that team will be successful.
148 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
If any part of a player's uniform is missing
or torn, it means bad luck for the team.
A cross-eyed umpire is tabooed as a hoodoo.
To have a "southpaw," or left-handed pitcher,
brings good luck to the team.
It is a common belief that the team losing the
first innings will win the game at the end.
Waiters, depending as they must upon chance
tips, are very prone to be superstitious, and have
developed a series of rites and ceremonies that
are supposed to bring them the coveted fee.
Drawing out a chair for the customer to seat
himself is sure to bring a good-sized fee. If the
customer for any reason takes a different seat
from that indicated it is a bad omen.
A certain arrangement of knife and fork is
sure to produce a good result. The fork must
lie near the plate and the knife on the outside
and parallel. Any other arrangement is bad.
Opening up the napkin for the customer is a
To bring a customer a second portion of but-
ter before he asks for it is good. If a customer
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 149
sends out a dish for any reason, it means bad
luck for the rest of the day.
To receive a big tip early in the day is a bad
sign. All the rest of the tips are apt to be small.
To break a dish is a very bad omen. It means
not only loss of wages, but the loss of tips as
If a waiter finds that a certain salutation re-
sults in a tip, he must use the same salutation
on all clients during the day.
To wait on a hunchback customer is a sign of
good luck and results in a good inflow of tips.
To wait on a one-armed man is bad.
PORTENTS OF EVIL
Furniture creaking at night without visible
cause, is a sign of death or illness.
Letters crossing in the mail betoken evil for-
When the church bell strikes while the parson
is giving out his text, some one in the congrega-
tion will die.
Ringing sounds in the ear foretell trouble.
Three people making up a bed is a bad sign,
and foretells illness to one of them.
The ticking of a "death tick/' a minute insect
that lives in wood, is a sign of coming trouble.
When poker and tongs hang both on the same
side of the fireplace it betokens a breaking of
Passing a friend on the stairs, foretells a
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 151
When two persons kindle a fire together, it fore-
tells that they will soon quarrel.
Two persons washing their hands in the same
basin or using the same towel at the same time,
had better beware, for their friendship will be
of short duration.
In all of the above cases, making a cross with
the thumb will prevent the evil from being carried
Drinking to the health of a friend is a very
old custom and goes back to the beginning of civil-
ization. The Roman gallant would drink as
many glasses as there were letters in the name
of his sweetheart.
The origin of the word "toast" is uncertain.
An old writer claims that in the reign of Charles
the Second, a piece of toasted bread was dropped
in the wine, and that a wit, seeing that the wine
had all been quaffed, remarked: "If I can't drink
the wine, I can at least have the toast."
To give or drink a toast signifies to offer a sen-
timent in honor of some dear person, and wish
him or her good health. It is supposed to be
152 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
The ancients poured wine upon the ground in
honor of the gods. The modern feaster prefers to
pour it into himself in honor o s f his friends.
Many a man drinks to the health of others and
forgets about his own health.
To break a glass while drinking a toast is a bad
omen, and may result in the early death of the
To spill wine while drinking a toast is a good
omen, and brings health and happiness to the
The custom of qualifying an assertion or a wish
with some pious remark in order to avert trouble,
is well-nigh universal and was as prevalent among
the ancients as with us.
The Romans, whenever they told of ^their in-
tended movements or of anything they expected to
accomplish in the future, always prefixed their
remarks with "Deo Volente," or some similar
The modern American says, "God willing," when
he tells of something he expects to do. This is
supposed to remove any hoodoo that may inter-
fere with his anticipated deed.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 153
Similarly the German says, "So Gott will" The
Frenchman says, "A Dieu ne deplaise" and so
every language has its equivalent.
In speaking about the possibility of anything
evil happening to one's dear ones, it is customary
to say, "God forbid."
In discussing the merits or deeds of one's
wife or other dear relative, we often say "God
bless her or him," which is supposed to remove any
occult influence for evil.
Jews, when discussing the good points or praise-
worthy traits of their dear ones, say, "Unbe-
schrien" which literally means "without wishing
to praise." This prevents the praise from react-
ing and becoming a reproach.
In speaking of their dead, the Germans often
add the word "selig" to the name. This means
"blessed" or of "blessed memory," and is equiva-
lent to saying, "Peace to his ashes."
The English expressions of "Dear me," "My
goodness" and "Goodness gracious," are really
modifications of "dio nrio" "My God," "Gracious
God," etc., and had their origin in the desire to
call on the Deity to bring comfort or help. So also
"Hully Gee" is a corruption of "Holy Jesus."
The Europeans think nothing of interjecting the
154 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
name of the Deity into their ordinary conversa-
tion. "Mein Gott" "Act Gott," "Mon Dieu" etc.,
take place of our "Dear me," etc. They are
not used in the spirit of blasphemy, but as pious
words to avert evil.
Many people before starting out on any errand,
or even before entering a room, say to themselves,
"Good luck," or other phrase, in the nature of
a silent prayer.
Birthday wishes, festival wishes and congratula-
tions are all related to this same class of prayers
or pious wishes, and are supposed to influence the
mysterious power that rules the universe, to send
its best gifts and to keep away harm.
SUPERSTITIONS OF THE ORTHODOX
The following is a list of some of the most
common beliefs of the orthodox Hebrews. Many
of them have their original in some Biblical quota-
tion or in some interpretation of a Biblical text.
This collection is taken from the pages of the
Animal : — To see an animal in an unexpected
place indicates the finding of a treasure.
Bachelor: — Bachelors are not looked on with
favor. As it is not good to be alone, every man
is supposed to marry. Sand is strewn before the
hearse when a bachelor is buried, as a reproach.
Barrenness: — To cure barrenness, water was
prescribed in which moss taken from the Temple
wall in Jerusalem was cooked.
Bat: — To kill a bat with a gold coin was con-
Bathtub: — A child's bathtub was not to be used
for any other purpose, or the child would meet
156 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
Bear: — To eat a bear's heart would convert the
eater into a tyrant.
Bed: — It is considered lucky for girls to sit
on a bride's bed, and will cause other marriages.
Blood: — As blood was supposed to carry the
life of the animal and was used on the altar, it is
not eaten by professing Jews.
Blood as a cure: — For many illnesses, blood
was smeared on the breast and forehead. The
blood of a rooster was usually taken for this
Bone: — When a fishbone has been swallowed,
place another fishbone on the head, and the offend-
ing bone will be either ejected or swallowed com^
Book: — It is dangerous to go away and leave
a book open.
Bread: — After saying the usual blessing over
bread at a meal (grace), the bread should be cut
in two before eating.
Bride: — If on the return from the marriage
canopy, the bride takes the groom's hand, she
will be the ruling power in the family. If the
groom takes the bride's hand, he will be boss.
Broom: — A table should never be brushed off
with a broom, as it may bring poverty.
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 157
Brothers: — It is unlucky for three married
brothers to live in the same town.
Buckets: — It is unlucky to come across an
empty bucket in going out of a house, or a full
bucket in coming in.
Cat: — When a cat licks her paws, be prepared
Convulsions: — When a child has convulsions,
break an earthenware pot in front of its face, to
drive away the demon.
Cemetery: — In order to allay the fears of any
member of a community of being the first to be
buried in a new cemetery, a rooster is often slaugh-
tered and buried.
Curse : — An undeserved curse, usually rebounds
on the one who curses, and brings him bad luck.
Dead: — A dead person is supposed to know
what is going on until the last spade-full of earth
is placed on his grave.
Dirt: — It is unlucky to throw dirt after a man
who is leaving a house.
Eggs:' — To steal an egg brings poverty.
Epidemics: — In case of an epidemic, never
open the door of your home to any one until he
has knocked three times.
Evil Eye: — To avert the curse of the evil eye,
158 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS
spit three times on your finger tips and make a
quick movement with your hand through the air.
Eye: — If the right eye itches, rejoice; if the
left, you will grieve.
Fingers : — When washing the fingers, hold them
downwards so that the water will drip off. Evil
spirits will depart with the water.
Feet: — Itching of the feet denotes that you
will make a voyage to a place you have never been
Hair: — If child's hair is cut on certain days,
an el flock will grow.
Looking back: — In running from danger,
never look back, or like Lot's wife, you will come
Money: — In taking money out of a purse or
box, always leave a coin, however small, as a luck
Money: — Dreaming of money is a sign of bad
Mourning: — Don't weep too long for the de-
parted or you may have to weep for some one else.
Weep three days, mourn seven, and refrain from
wearing jewelry for thirty days.
Oven: — It is unlucky to leave an oven empty.
When you are not baking in it, keep a piece of
SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 159
wood within, or you may not have anything to
Rats: — If rats leave one house for another, it
is a sign of bad luck for the first and good luck
for the second.
Shoes: — Never walk out with only one shoe
or slipper on your foot. It may forecast a death.
Shroud: — In making a shroud, avoid knots.
Sisters : — Two sisters should not marry on th6
same day, nor should two brothers marry two
sisters. Both bring bad luck.
Sweeping: — It is unlucky to sweep out a room
at night or to throw sweepings into the street
Widowhood : — The fourth husband of a widow
will die soon after his marriage.
Spitting: — When a person spits at another, he
takes over the other's sins.
Travelling: — Monday is a bad day for travel-
ling, but Tuesday is a lucky day.
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